Aug 6, 2018

[Movies] Hail, Caesar! (2016) Review

On occasion I like experimenting with Netflix's content suggestions and that lead me to the movie Hail, Caesar! that I vaguely remember blipping on my radar some years back but I never bother to look into it further. I have to admit I feel a odd sense of movie fatigue when it comes to George Clooney for some reason.

I can't claim to be a big fan of the Coen brothers but I do enjoy their movies here and there. I just don't go out of my place to try and follow their project announcements and such. But I loved Fargo so there had to be something to enjoy here.

The resulting movie was interesting in its efforts to capture a very distinct period in Hollywood history but with the usual touches of Coen intrigue. I tend to assume things are going to go bad for pretty much everyone involved as is the way with these stories but this one didn't quite feel like it pushed everything to the limits. And in that sense, I guess it helped make things different enough.

Synopsis: Hail, Caesar! is a 2016 British-American Comedy movie written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The National Board of Review named it as one of the top ten films of 2016.

It's 1951 and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) performs the role of a fixer" for Capitol Figures by keeping its stable of stars out of trouble - or at least to keep the press away from their troubles. His main challenges are the reval gossip columnist sisters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both Tilda Swinton). At the same time the Lockheed Corporation has made him an offer for an executive position but he's undecided about taking it at this time.

The first drama incident involves DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who becomes pregnant but is unmarried. So it's up to Mannix to arrange things in such a manner to avoid the scandal of having a bastard child. Around the same time the production of the new movie "Hail, Caesar! A Tale of Christ" has been derailed by the disappearance of the lead actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who has apparently been kidnapped a group of Communist writers.

What I Liked: The Coen Brothers are quite good at crafting memorable characters and many memorable moments. I can't get over the basic sight gag of the Thacker twins and the perfect casting decision in the form of Tilda Swinton. They don't exactly get a lot of screen time but every moment was totally, totally worth it. And the movie has a lot of references and homages to the old Hollywood era that went a long way to giving the movie a nicely distinct feel.

Then there's the whole premise of the Communist cell composed of writers - worse Hollywood writers. Just saying those words together feel like the setup for a good joke and I loved that arc as they tried to convince Baird as to the benefits of the Communist way of life. And that twist at the ending with the BIG THING. Yeah i loved how crazy that was.

What Could Have Been Better: The movie sets up Mannix as the sort of protagonist that ties this whole thing together, but I didn't really get that into it. I had somehow forgotten about the Lockheed offer since it didn't really matter as much or Tilda Swinton just distracted me that much. The whole fixer aspect was really interesting to me at first but then it didn't really feel like it mattered as much as you'd think by the end of it as the Communist plot really blew up in terms of the movie.

And I guess after so many other bloody, gory, or at least disturbing Coen Brothers movies, this one felt oddly subdued or muted somehow? Things ended pretty well actually or in a manner that didn't seem to add all that much complication compared to their other projects.

TL;DR: Hail, Caesar! is pretty entertaining but not quite as grim as the other Coen Brothers movies, if you get what I mean. It's a solid piece on its own with a bigger visual impact than a narrative one. Thus the movie gets a good 3.5 old Hollywood references worked into the characters and setting out of a possible 5.

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