Hail, Caesar! is a combination of two Coen Brothers movies melding the comedic noirness of The Big Lebowski with the period setting and humour contained in Barton Fink. Capitol Pictures actually makes a reappearance. Josh Brolin portrays Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer for Capitol. We follow Mannix during the course of a typical day on the job as he attempts to solve the mystery of kidnapped biblical epic star Baird Whitlock played by George Clooney. This is one of those movies that reminded me that I actually like him.
Laughs go hand in hand in this light comedy, an ode to 1950s Hollywood with lavish set designs and rich cinematography as Roger Deakins returns to 35mm (to the request of the Coens). The film is peppered with moments where many talented actors briefly pass through the story for only a scene or two. Scarlett Johansson is the focus of a grande aquatic sequence, and Channing Tatum tap dances across a bar in a loving homage to Gene Kelly in films such as Singing In the Rain. And while Alden Ehrenreich has put in solid performances in the past in films like Stoker and Blue Jasmine, his role as Hobie Doyle may just break him through. Most subjectively memorable though is a scene with Frances McDormand as a chain smoking movie editor. I will not elaborate but it is simply a joy.
Audiences may be off-put by the structure and lack of momentum in its plot but in the film’s defense the Coen Brothers have overtly made that the theme of the story. Like in life things will often sort themselves out as you try to fix them. In the prolific list of Coen Brothers films it is far from the best film they have made but on a list of such phenomenal films it is also far from their worst work.
Hail, Caesar! may seem light and airy but it is a warm comedy that cinephiles and Coen fans will adore.