The wacky Coen Brothers go back to their bizarre and experimental comedic roots with “Hail, Caesar!”. This is when they are at their best.
“Hail, Caesar!” is an episodic dark comedy set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring Josh Brolin as fixer, Eddie Mannix. Mannix is a neurotic man who acts tough, but is soft in a rough industry. We get a glimpse at a day in the life of Mannix, as he sorts out a pregnancy scandal with a single actress (Scarlett Johansson), manages a cowboy star’s (Alden Ehrenreich) miscasting in an art film, and searches for a missing debauched Hollywood favorite (George Clooney); all while keeping twin journalists (both played by Tilda Swinton) off his back.
“Hail, Caesar!” is likely the Coens’ most polarizing film since “The Big Lebowski” and it’s just as weird, due to its episodic format and semi-confusing plot. It’s also a movie that satirizes the movie industry while delivering jokes that require your undivided attention. Sure, it’s a bit drawn out and semi-heavy handed, but it’s damn good!
The Coens craft “Hail, Caesar!” as a part Film Noir, part Hollywood satire, and a part political satire, and it all works for the most part. Each cast member delivers rich and funny performances, as expected in a Coen Brothers movie.
Brolin delivers one of his quirkiest performances, portraying Mannix as a tough guy who’s overly concerned with whether or not he’s a good person, stressing over bad habits like smoking. Clooney is always his best with the Coens and delivers a hilarious performance as the dimwitted, egomaniac Kirk Douglas-type. Ehrenreich steals every scene as a Texan star who can’t deliver a simple line as directed, and Channing Tatum dances in a terrific cameo as a musical star with a mysterious background.
The Coens load “Hail, Caesar!” with great sequences, including movies within the movie (these are more introductory sequences for our cast), a smart banter between different religious figures on how Jesus should be portrayed, and some beautiful imagery (the film is shot by Roger Deakins of “Skyfall” and “No Country for Old Men”).
Some sequences and characters aren’t as well developed as others, particularly Tatum’s. With his character (not spoiling anything here), we should have either had more of him or none of him, despite the golden dance sequence.
The Coens vary between dark and violent thrillers like “No Country for Old Men” and Fargo, and quirky comedies like “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski”. “Hail, Caesar!” falls under the latter and is for anyone who loves movies or film history.