- RatedPG /GenreComedy
Whether one is a movie buff or not, the mere idea of ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is enough to salivate at.
In this latest Coen brothers effort, Hollywood’s greatest era is revisited by some of Hollywood’s greatest writers-directors-producers.
And does this equation add up to produce one of Hollywood’s greatest films?Unfortunately, it does not. But this does not make ‘Hail, Caesar!’ any less delightful than it is to watch.
Indeed, this charming homage to 1950s Hollywood is not quite as golden as the Golden Age, but it certainly radiates with much of the glory, magic and awe of that era to which we still look back longingly.
PAYING TRIBUTE TO TALENT WITH TALENT
Penned, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, known to most as “the Coen brothers”, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ transports us back to 1950s Los Angeles and centres mostly on the dreamy studios and back lots of the Capitol Pictures production company.
With Hollywood studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) front and centre, the film is driven primarily by Mannix’s attempts to resolve the sudden kidnapping of a major motion picture star (George Clooney).
But Mannix, who is based on a real-life namesake, must also tend to the problems and needs of the many other talents working for the studio, and it is through this interweaving of subplots that the film revisits the multiple genres that characterised classical Hollywood cinema.
From the Roman epics and gun-slinging Westerns, to the aquatic films and Gene Kelly-esque song and dance treats, the Coen brothers recreate these Golden Age favourites with a meticulousness that translates to infective nostalgia and light humour.
Picking up even the slightest nuances in performance, direction, editing and music specific to each genre, the Coen brothers effectively resurrect the “feel” of these films while also poking fun at them.
And then the camera zooms out – often literally – to also pay homage to the countless other off-screen talents that brought these films to life, from European director Laurence Lorenz played by Ralph Fiennes to Frances McDormand's film editor CC Calhoun.
It certainly helps that ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is as overloaded with talent as Golden Age Hollywood was. Clooney is loveable as Baird Whitlock, a major movie star whose real-life intellect and personality are quite hilariously different from his impressive onscreen image.
Alden Ehrenreich emerges as one of the film’s undoubted highlights with his portrayal of Hobie Doyle, an action star whose limited acting abilities are revealed when he is uprooted from his Western adventure films and placed in a serious drama.
The multi-talented Channing Tatum is a nice fit into the tap shoes of a Gene Kelly equivalent, showing off his pleasing singing voice in addition to his renowned dancing skills. And Scarlett Johansson dives (literally) into her svelte diva role as an Esther Williams-like actress and swimmer.
In other words, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is a wonderful collage of one era of Hollywood talent paying homage to another. And there is plenty of humour (and a little bit of odd politics) also added to the mix.
TOO LIGHT TO FEEL COMPLETE
While ‘Hail, Caesar!’ has plenty to entertain its audience with, it does not keep its viewers interested enough to stay on for the next act. And this is where the film falls short of the supposed greatness it seemed destined for.
No doubt, dissecting the hidden message in this film would take more analysis and interpretation on the audience’s part. While this would certainly delight some, it leaves much to be desired in viewers wishing for a more complete, clearer picture.
But if the majesty of “Caesar“ is a symbol for the magic and awe of Golden Age Hollywood, then the message is clear and resounding. “Hail, Caesar!” indeed.