One for the lovers of cinema. Set in 1950s Hollywood, Hail, Caesar! follows studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he solves the many problems of his troublesome stars, not least the disappearance of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) from the set of Capitol Pictures’ biggest ever production, ‘Hail, Caesar!’
Hail, Caesar! is a visual masterpiece. The tone of the film is perfect 1950s – and perfect Coen Brothers, of course, who co-wrote, directed and produced the film. Everything about it, from the beautiful costume design, to the old-world Californian setting, and even the camera filter sends viewers back to the Golden Age of Cinema. It is an homage to a time of dedicated storytelling, as well as a satirical expose of the antics of Hollywood studios.
The film’s multiple storylines work through Eddie Mannix having to fix the issues that arise within the studio; thus, we meet Baird Whitlock, Capitol Pictures’ biggest star who has mysteriously been kidnapped, played by a wonderfully dopey George Clooney. There’s Scarlett Johansson’s audacious, witty DeAnna Moran, who is pregnant yet unmarried and must maintain her reputation. Channing Tatum’s Burt Gurney is brilliantly camp (and really good at tap-dancing), Jonah Hill plays a ‘professional person’ (who ‘meets the legal standard of personhood’), and Tilda Swinton shines as twin gossip columnists who are constantly at war. But the show stealers are by far Ralph Fiennes’ dramatic director Laurence Laurentz and Alden Ehrenreich as western star Hobie Doyle, who in one scene manage to capture the silly, satirical nature of the film. All of this is brought together by Josh Brolin as Mannix, who is our studio loving, down to earth guide through this crazy world, in a strong performance.
These different subplots, whilst interesting, don’t interact with each other much; unlike the weaving storylines of, say, Love Actually, these are separate (save for the common thread of Eddie Mannix), and do leave the film feeling somewhat disjointed. However, what makes up for this is the strong, fascinating, funny characters and their brilliant humour. From communist intellectuals to Hollywood scandal, Hail, Caesar!’s humour is dry bordering on absurd, but in a magnificent way. The Coen Brothers’ insight into the inner-workings of 1950s Hollywood may be scarily accurate, but it is very, very funny.
Hail, Caesar! takes the best of the Golden Age of Cinema (as well as the worst) and reminds us of how fun and absurd it was, whilst also reminding us how important filmmaking is. Poking fun yet showing love, Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to 1950s cinema, as well as filmmaking in general and cinema today.
Here is my list of the top 5 films starring the enormous and talented cast of Hail, Caesar!
- Lost In Translation – Scarlett Johansson
- 21 Jump Street – Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill
- The Harry Potter series – Ralph Fiennes
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Josh Brolin
- The Good Dinosaur – Frances McDormand