500 Days Of Film Reviews Hail, Caesar! And Finds A Loving And Amusing Homage To Hollywood's Golden Age
In the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age, it is up to Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to fix the problems at Capitol Pictures Studio.
He has to find actors for movies at a moment's notice, save movie stars from themselves and hide all this drama from the prying eyes of Hollywood’s gossip columnists (twins played by the glorious Tilda Swinton).
Mannix is the oil that keeps the film studio running. However, some problems prove easier to solve than others, as Eddie discovers when top movie star, Baird Whitlock (a goofy George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious group called The Future.
Is It Any Good?
In an age when trailers tend to tell you more than you really want to know, Hail, Caesar!’s marketing felt strangely elusive.
Despite having seen (and enjoyed) two of the film’s trailers, I remained unsure what this new Coen brothers’ movie was about.
Having now seen Hail, Caesar!, I understand why this film was tricky to sell. Far from being a simple kidnapping caper or My Fair Lady in reverse (would that it t'were so simple), Hail, Caesar! is the Coen brothers’ loving homage to the wonder of filmmaking and Hollywood’s Golden Age.
We spend most of our time following Josh Brolin’s formidable Eddie Mannix as, racked with Catholic guilt, he patrols the film studio, making sure all is running smoothly. Brolin is just superb in this role.
As Mannix enters various movie sets, we see the films that are being made.
There is a drama (directed by Ralph Fiennes’ wonderful Laurence Laurentz) in need of a lead actor, a swimming picture starring Scarlett Johansson’s tough DeeAnna Moran (very much in the style of Esther Williams - see Random Observations below) and the major feature film from which Hail, Caesar! takes its title.
Each film within this film is full of comedy (more amusing than laugh out loud), fun and nostalgia.
Of all the many set pieces and impressive performances in Hail, Caesar!, it is Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Western actor, Hobie Doyle, that I loved the best. His is the innocent, comic heart of this film - a perfect counterbalance to the world weary Mannix.
I also really enjoyed Channing Tatum’s wonderful song and dance number. This man is seriously talented as his performances in this film, tense drama Foxcatcher and action comedy 21 Jump Street have emphatically proved.
Hail, Caesar! also introduces some interesting female characters. Scarlett Johansson is brilliant, Tilda Swinton is wonderful (when isn't she?) and I loved Frances McDormand’s eccentric film editor - C. C. Calhoun.
These characters are, for me, far more interesting and engaging than Clooney’s affable, Baird Whitlock. Sadly, however, they are left underutilised. That felt a real shame.
Hail, Caesar! is a handsome and amusing film. While acknowledging the studio system’s flaws, this movie remains hopelessly devoted to the magical art of filmmaking.
While, Hail, Caesar! doesn’t rank among my favourite Coen brothers’ films, it was very enjoyable and left me with a satisfying sense of nostalgia for Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Eddie Mannix is the only real person depicted in Hail, Caesar! However, the real life Mannix was not the likeable family man as played here by Josh Brolin. He was a much tougher character whose alleged mafia connections led to rumours that he was involved in the death of Superman actor, George Reeves.
Like Scarlett Johansson’s DeeAnna Moran, Esther Williams was pregnant when filming Easy To Love.
Hail, Caesar! looks stunning thanks to the cinematography of Roger Deakins. Deakins has a phenomenal body of work and has been nominated for an Oscar a total of 13 times but never won (ya hear that Leo?).
I also loved the costume design by Mary Zophres.
What no John Goodman?
Have you seen Hail, Caesar!? If you have what did you think of this Coen brothers’ movie? Do let me know, leave me a comment in the box below!