Hail, Caesar! The Coen Brothers’ Joke On Hollywood

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To my disappointment, this new film by the legendary Ethan and Joel Coen has been somewhat swamped with poor reviews, complaining that ‘Hail Caesar!’ did not live up to the ‘Coen Brothers’ standards’.

However, this film was not meant to compete with the likes of the infamous ‘No Country For Old Men’ or ‘True Grit’.

They held you back in your seats with anticipation and fear, forcing your choc-top to melt due to excessive sweaty palms from the emphatic dramatic tension.

No, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is the Coen Brothers’ chance to employ a comedic and satirical take on the Hollywood scene. And if you look past its 1950’s setting and delve in a little deeper, the characters and dialogue seem to be set up as though to ridicule the modern day movie-making studios and even era as a whole.

Josh Brolin successfully plays the role of Eddie Mannix, the hard working studio executive for the fictional Capitol Pictures, who has to piece back together the insanity and craziness of the troublesome stars and sensitive press, who all seem to have their own unique way of contributing to the unsteadiness of the studio. Alongside these wild stars is Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a simple man to say the least, whose sudden disappearance has stirred up even more trouble for Mannix to resolve.

Also having to deal with the public’s perception and appearance of DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), a publicly adored aquatic performer, who is trying to adopt her own child after falling pregnant out of wedlock, so that the news of her pregnancy doesn’t ruin her reputation with the sensitive 1950’s crowd.

While on the other side of the spectrum, the Coen Brothers hilariously create more chaos, as Mannix is forced to ‘transform the look’ of the singing cowboy and Wild West star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) out of his comfort zone to the high-end melodramatic scene (much like Downton Abbey) and assume his role under the irritated wing of the renowned director Laurence Laurenz (Ralph Fiennes), ultimately contributing to some hilarious dialogue and acting between the two polar opposite characters.

Contributing to the star-studded cast are small appearances from Channing Tatum.

He plays a musical star (including an elaborate dance routine), Jonah Hill, who assumes the role of Joseph Silverman, a fall guy that is used as a scapegoat for all the stars’ legal fallouts, and Tilda Swinton who plays both the twin Thacker sisters who are both columnists that scrounge around for a story.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ seems to be the Coen Brothers’ chance to satirically make fun of the Hollywood film industry and the people within it. For example, one of the great disputes in Hollywood is the wages of screenwriters. Evidently, the Coen Brothers make a mockery of this, composing main components of the film’s plot around a collective of Communist screenwriters who come together and take extreme action to demand a large sum of money. Moreover, through the easily swayed and somewhat brainless character Baird Whitlock, the Coen Brothers give the impression that they are making fun of the real life Clooney and many other big Hollywood actors who all seem to hit a mid-career crisis and assume a new random cause to life, just as Whitlock was suddenly won over by a new political movement.

Clooney as Whitlock Thanks to www.flickreel.com for the image.
Clooney as Whitlock
Thanks to www.flickreel.com for the image.

Furthermore, we see Alfred Hitchcock’s statement “that I think all actors are cattle” be enhanced in the course of Mannix’s character and job as studio executive; tirelessly hunting down his actors to try tie them up in an effort to keep their political, personal and public lives in tack. In fact, it is even announced when Hobie is asked how he got into the movie business that he had claimed to be “roped in”.

The performance by Josh Brolin as Mannix was outstanding, as he was able to capture and impart a very real and true performance under absurd circumstances.

He kept his character within reason and did not blow over the top during intense chaos, reaffirming Mannix’s religious characteristics, regularly seen in the Church confession box, admitting how he smoked two cigarettes after promising to his wife that he will try quit.

On the other hand, the film was quite bizarre in a sense that there really wasn’t much of a story line, nor did many of the characters’ own problems and situations get resolved. Mannix’s main dilemma of whether he should leave Hollywood and work in a high-end position at Lockheed Martin was ultimately resolute, however the sub-character’s stories were neglected and left at a stand still, possibly to show how the continuous work and disorder of the Hollywood entertainment business arrives at a stand still, too.

The team collaboration from two of the finest directors in the world, Ethan and Joel Coen, have not fallen short to provide a quick-witted and hysterically entertaining film. ‘Hail, Caesar!’ puts on a show in a grand display of how amazing and how wearisome Hollywood really is. Its speculate is that it places people on a pedestal to the world, providing those with hope and distraction from their problems, but horrible behind the scenes, using a fake façade of dreams and cheerfulness to shade a twisted and brutal reality. It reflects the madness of history in one of the biggest industries on this planet.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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