Check out the video below for the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘Hail, Caesar!’ or read on for our mini-review!
After turning in a trio of grim, reflective films (‘A Serious Man,’ ‘True Grit,’ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’), filmmaking duo the Coen Brothers shift gears with ‘Hail, Caesar!’, a quirky comedy that follows a 1950’s Hollywood fixer (Josh Brolin) as he frantically tries to deal with multiple threats to his studio and its stars.
Fans of classic cinema will find plenty of homages in ‘Hail, Caesar!’ to keep themselves entertained, especially in the sequences that feature familiar throwbacks to old-Hollywood musical numbers. Scarlet Johansson plays a scandal-ridden caricature of Esther Williams, complete with an aquatic musical number reminiscent of MGM’s ‘Million Dollar Mermaid,’ while Channing Tatum channels Gene Kelly as a singin’, dancin’ sailor who would have been perfectly at place on the set of ‘On The Town.’
The most impressive performance of the film belongs to Alden Ehrenreich, who plays Hobie Doyle, an amalgam of Will Rogers and Roy Rogers. As a young, naive actor who is known for his serene singing voice and his vaudeville rope tricks, Hobie’s subplot involves him being miscast in a high-calibre dramatic film. This results in perhaps the funniest scene in the film as Hobie helplessly receives coaching from pompous director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), who is himself a reference to classic Hollywood director George Cukor.
Compared to other Coen Brothers works, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is uneven and clumsy in its execution. Each individual scene is masterfully crafted; the comedic bits are punchy and well-timed, the performances are engaging, and the understated struggle of faith versus capitalism is resonant. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a disjointed narrative structure that fails to properly connect these brilliant scenes into a cohesive whole. Several plot lines and character arcs end abruptly, with one noticeable example occurring completely off-screen. With tighter writing, these arcs could have been woven together more comfortably. With tighter editing, superfluous plot lines could have been cut entirely. With neither, a film that could have been great ends up being merely okay.
And with a story and a setting as ambitious as ‘Hail, Caesar!’, being merely okay is a sin in and of itself.
Written by William Lindus, Movie Bears Podcast