Hail, Caeser! Review: This is a drama, a real life drama

Chad White
Loves: The Coen Brothers, Clooney, Movies about movies
Likes: Cameos, Subplots
Dislikes: Commies
Hates: Cigarettes

This is bad. Bad for actors everywhere.

It hasn’t been long since we’ve seen Joel and Ethan Coen write a movie – they helped pen the Spielberg directed Bridge of Spies this past winter. Before that, it was Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken but it wasn’t since 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis that we’ve seen a full-fledged Coen brother production. With the introduction of Hail, Caesar, the brothers return to their more comical side. But don’t be fooled; this movie is not a laugh out loud knee slapper. Hail, Caesar takes an interesting look into the blossoming world of film during the 1950’s. The cast is exceptional, the writing is witty and engrossing and each story is uniquely taken care of in such a way that they wrap around almost neatly in the end.

Hail, Caesar follows Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix played by Josh Brolin as he tries to keep the production of a movie -- called Hail, Caesar – from breaking down after the disappearance of its star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). The only problem is he hasn’t disappeared; he was kidnapped by the communist party. While trying to find Whitlock, Mannix must deal with various other problems such as single mother DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) finding a suitor; cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) being forced to star in British director Laurence Laurentz’s (Ralph Fiennes) new posh film; and gossip columnist sisters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (dual roles for Tilda Swinton) competing for top stories. These are just a sample of the happenings during the events of the main story. If that’s not enticing enough, these characters are joined by Channing Tatum, Allison Pill and a bevy of eccentric characters each with their own defining traits.

The Coen brothers are able to craft stories that can take place concurrently to the main plot. They do a great job here even if things tend to just peter off at points. Sometimes, a character’s arc just ends and a choppy piece of dialogue exposition is used to explain what happened. Also, while it’s a very welcoming movie, those who aren’t “in the know” for the movie industry could be lost to some aspects of the film. For example, they might not understand why, when we’re introduced to Mannix, he forces one of the studio’s female actresses to leave an unsanctioned photoshoot. It’s reasonable but Hail, Caesar is dense with instances like this.

Speaking of character introductions, the direction, writing and character interplay themselves pave the way for interesting if not charming establishment of the cast. Each character is first shown with either an experimental camera angle, a plot device or showcasing a particular skill. This makes each character memorable in their own right.

Should you watch Hail, Caesar?

If you have any interest in the film industry whether it be to work in it or just get a better understanding, then this movie is for you. Hail, Caesar fits right into the Coen universe with its varied cast and dissecting of stories. It can be a little too inside baseball at times but a little knowledge won’t hurt you.

Notes

  • Cameos. Cameos everywhere. Jonah Hill, to some extent Channing Tatum, Wayne Knight, Frances McDormand, Alison Pill, David Krumholtz, and Clancy Brown are just a few people in the bloated background cast. The best part is that they already existed in the world whereas any other movie would’ve had some lame explanation as to why each character is needed.
  • If Wikipedia is correct, the brothers Coen also edited the entire film. I like a lot of what was done. In, say Dirty Grandpa, there were a lot of jump cuts that interrupted the flow of conversation. Hail, Caesar handled a lot of conversations with careful crafting. Sometimes, a shot would just linger, leaving only two things for the audience to pay attention to: the speaking character and the dialogue.
  • Speaking of the written content, I love how it was easy to follow. Most movies set during the era have this strange fast speaking that always confuses me.