MOVIE REVIEW: “Hail, Caesar!” stars Josh Brolin (Sicario, Avengers: Infinity War), George Clooney (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fantastic Mr. Fox), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow , Marriage Story ), Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Beautiful Creatures), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer , Moonrise Kingdom), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher, White House Down), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Nomadland), Jonah Hill (Moneyball, Don’t Look Up), Veronica Osorio (The Laundromat, Mosaic [TV series]), Heather Goldenhersh (The Merchant of Venice, Kinsey), and Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Milk). It is written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo , No Country for Old Men).
When the lead of a big-budget picture is suddenly kidnapped, a Hollywood fixer (Brolin) does everything in his power to find him and keep this news from breaking.
Nothing like a Coen brothers flick to make for an entertaining night. And with a golden era Hollywood caper like “Hail, Caesar!,” things get… interesting.
We know the works of these famous brothers. More hits than misses, and even their misses are somewhat fun (at least from the okay-ish ones I’ve seen). When “Hail, Caesar!” first dropped in 2016, I was stoked. I believe I was coming off a recent movie marathon of theirs, and was looking forward to their latest project. However, the reviews proved to be lackluster, and I never trekked out to the theater. Walking around a dollar general one day a few weeks ago, I saw this puppy sitting in the discounted movies section and couldn’t pass it up (sorry Coens it took this long).
“Hail, Caesar!” is a film for movie buffs. Or at least, those privy to the golden era of cinema. Back with the studio system was thriving and the conservative image was everything. The Coens tackle this era flawlessly when it comes to their production design and cinematography, offering a landscape that is beautiful, sleek, and reminiscent of the time. I loved the wardrobe and set pieces in this, all of which taking inspiration from the movies of the time (the behind-the-scenes featurettes of this film are a great study). Clearly, the look is the best part, and satisfied this period-piece movie watcher greatly.
When you get the call to be in one of these brothers’ pictures, you don’t pass it up. And apparently, a large list of top-tier talent picked up the phone. Josh Brolin heads this acting juggernaut, which features the likes of Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill (amongst others; one of which was a surprise cameo from Wayne Knight). I loved this cast and thought all of them knocked it out of the park. Brolin especially, who played a humorous role of a man trying to keep the studio’s actors in line. This was also Alden Ehrenreich’s big break before heading into “Solo,” and I thought the man did better in this than dawning Ford’s black vest.
What it boils down to for this movie is story. It’s a piece on filmmaking of old, though it’s noticeably absent of the Coen brothers wit we all know and love. Jokes are tossed, and ironic situations are risen, but not to the high standard these guys usually churn out. It’s hard to explain, but I didn’t really laugh. Nor did I find the story to be all too gripping. There’s a manhunt for George Clooney’s character, but it’s ultimately a look at the film industry at the time; filled with rich history and wonderful visuals, it’s enough to swoon a filmmaker like myself, though I can’t ignore the fact that I wasn’t grappled. The twist of Clooney’s kidnappers is… interesting, to say the least. But there are plenty of moments that made me think “I see what they were shooting for, but it just didn’t stick the landing.” There are fun character moments and the performances are strong. It’s just the story that doesn’t rope me in. The movie starts and ends, with only visuals to keep me talking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you put in a Coen brothers movie, you expect to be taken more aback.
“Hail, Caesar!” isn’t the Coen brothers worst. It’s honestly not a bad movie in general. It flaunts visual beauty and wonder, while pulling us into a world of glitz long past. The performances are fun and the scope is large. Unfortunately, it’s the story that doesn’t sell itself. You’ve got your usual Coen brothers wit in dialogue; it’s just more lifeless/careless this go-around. If you’re a fan of these guys and the era they are portraying, I say to give it a shot. Otherwise, you’re not missing out on much. FINAL SCORE: 71%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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