Skip to main content

Film Review: "Hail, Caesar!"

Film Review: "Hail, Caesar!"



"Hail, Caesar!", the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, is set in Hollywood in the early 1950s, the final years before the collapse of the studio system. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a studio exec whose job entails putting out all the fires started by the stars of the various films in production at the studio. These stars include George Clooney as an actor in a Ben Hur-like epic who gets kidnapped, Scarlett Johansson as the star of an 'aquamusical', similar to the ones starring Esther Williams, and Channing Tatum, who plays a Gene Kelly-like dancer starring in a sailor musical. The amount of time and detail given to these movies-within-the-movie is evidence of the brothers' love and appreciation for moviemaking, without which the movie would be in danger of feeling hollow and disingenuous. 


One of the earliest moments of the film establishes a comparison between Brolin's Mannix and Jesus, martyrs taking on the sins of others, a theme which carries throughout the film. The central conflict facing Mannix is whether or not he should leave his stressful job at the studio for an "easy" position at an aerospace corporation. His struggle to decide takes the film to some interesting thematic places, helping it amount to much more than its low-on-plot structure, as it explores whether the movies are a business, an art form, or maybe even a religion. This depth should not come as a surprise, given that the Coens are such deliberate filmmakers. Every scene, every character, every line of dialogue has a meaning (and a double meaning) that contribute to the film's larger significance. 

Brolin delivers the strongest performance, infusing Mannix with a tenderness that nicely balances his gruff exterior. Clooney, playing a not very intelligent actor, is solid riffing on his movie star persona. The rest of the cast, which includes Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, do what they can with only a couple of scenes each. 

Subplots involving Johansson and Tatum's characters don't really go anywhere, and there are only sporadic truly laugh out loud moments. But in the end, the Coens have made a genuinely fun movie about movies that has no shortage of deeper thoughts.                                                                                                    

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ranking the "Mission: Impossible" Films Worst to Best

The Mission: Impossible movies, based on the 1966-73 television series, are about Ethan Hunt and the Impossible Mission Force doing something that seems impossible at first, but always ends up being possible. Tom Cruise stars in all the films as Ethan, and other members of the team are Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg). I like the Mission: Impossible movies because each film has a different director and thus each one has their own distinctive feel. Sure, there are a couple of constants (Cruise is in them all, they all are spy/action movies, and they all have people wearing masks - a nod to the TV show), but going into a Mission: Impossible movie you are never quite sure what you are going to get. Sometimes it's a silly fun spy franchise, other times it feels like nothing more than an excuse for Tom Cruise do to some sort of crazy stunt. Since the first film was released in 1996, there have been five movies, with a sixth on the way. Here's how I would rank the movies …

Hollywood Has Failed Kate Hudson: A Report After Watching All Her Movies

Why has Kate Hudson been in so few good movies? 17 years later, the actress is still waiting to make good on the promise she showed in Almost Famous. 
When Kate Hudson first appears about 20 minutes into Almost Famous, the tenor of the movie changes. She's like a lightning rod of energy that once Cameron Crowe's camera finds her, it has no choice but to tell her story. She radiates off the screen, demanding you pay attention to her performance. And what a performance it is. Intense vulnerability hidden behind a vivacious exterior of fur-lined coats and round sunglasses. It's such a great performance and a great movie that I was shocked to look at Kate Hudson's profile on Metacritic sometime in late 2015 (when I first saw Almost Famous) and find merely one movie since Almost Famouswith a green Metascore. Could it be possible that an actress as talented as Kate Hudson has only been in two good movies in the past decade and a half? How had out of the 20-something movies sh…

Film Review: Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted
For my first post, I'll be reviewing "Muppets Most Wanted". Let me start off by saying that I am a huge Muppet fan, and have been since I was very young.  So, needless to say, I had very high expectations for their eight feature film. And I am happy to say, I was not disappointed. "Most Wanted" picks up after the events of the 2011 reboot, "The Muppets", and follows the gang as they embark on a World Tour. Oh, and Kermit is replaced by his evil doppelgänger, Constantine, but that's a very minor subplot and doesn't really go anywhere.
"The Muppets" was a nostalgia-filled reintroduction to these characters, who hadn't been on the big screen since 1999's "Muppet From Space". The reboot hit all the right notes to get people to care about these characters again. And it worked perfectly for that movie. But now Muppets fans, like myself, wanted the next one to be a classic Muppet adventure, and not as …