Old School Hollywood – Hail, Caesar! (2016)

A lesser effort, but not without its moments.  So this is about a movie studio fixer (Josh Brolin).  He’s about to inherit a big problem when the lead of the studio’s next big blockbuster (George Clooney) vanishes without a trace one afternoon on set.  Now I know this is a movie that the Coens have been trying to get off the ground for literally years now.  If you check the history on this, they first conceived it back to 2004, but they didn’t start putting it into production until 2013.  Now its finally here, and the Coens are a pair of the most talented directors working today, so the craft is definitely present… but it still has a very disjointed feel to it, which makes total sense, given that it was shelved for over a decade.

1Material can only stay fresh for so long.

Much like the great Woody Allen, actors will volunteer to work for significantly less than usual just for an opportunity to work with the Coens; they simply don’t make big budget movie, and their clout is enough to get actors to show up.  And Hail, Caesar is about as star studded as movies get.  In addition to Brolin and Clooney, there’s Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, and Ralph Fiennes.  Even relatively big names like Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, and Clancy Brown show up for remarkably small roles that couldn’t have taken much more than about a day to shoot.  There are so many people here, it does end up feeling a little crowded.  The biggest surprise for me was Alden Ehrenreich, an actor who I’ve seen previously, but not taken much note of until now.  He has one of the biggest parts in here as an acting cowboy trying to take his talent to the next level, and his performance was the most committed in the movie.  Of course, it doesn’t change what the standout part of the movie is: the Channing Tatum dance sequence.  It’s a well choreographed five minute sequence, and it is like it was out of a stage musical, something not all that different from Anything Goes.

2I’m telling you, ever since The Eagle in 2011, Chan Man can do no wrong.

I’m just happy to get a new Coens move, and while I am an admitted rabid fan, I have to say that this is in the very bottom of their library, which is still better than most.  The story just is not the strongest, and it ends up feeling like a collection of loosely connected scenes rather than one fully conceived idea.  It’s a farcical tale, and it’s the type where one would call a car a jalopy.  It feels like it exists in the same universe as Barton Fink, a film that I feel is still criminally underappreciated.  Hail, Caeser is good, not great, and I can only give it a low recommendation, and you probably have to be a die hard Coen fan like myself for this to be worth your while.

Hail, Caesar! (2016) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire


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