The Coen Brothers display their obvious affection for the golden age of Hollywood, flaws and all, with Hail, Caesar!, a decidedly amusing little comedy powered by the delicious appearance of a number of established stars (and one in the making) and an absolutely note-perfect lead performance by Josh Brolin, who makes what he does here look very easy.
In 1951, Eddie Mannix (Brolin), head of physical production at Capitol Pictures, doubles as the studio’s “fixer,” keeping scandals involving the studio’s stars out of the public eye. In the midst of considering a job offer and dealing with an unmarried actress’s (Scarlett Johansson) pregnancy, he gets a whopper of a challenge when the star (George Clooney) of the studio’s biblical epic is kidnapped.
I mean it when I say amusing. The film will generally put a smile on your face more than it will make you bust a gut, especially while watching the Coens faithfully replicate synchronized swimming routines or elaborate musical numbers or melodramatic Bible-epic scenes. If you laugh out loud at anything, it will probably be whenever Clooney appears.
The studio proves a perfect setting, too, as it allows the Coens to show us the kinds of films that existed, and how the studio system operated. This includes how a singing-cowboy star (Alden Ehrenreich, soon to be young Han Solo) struggles with being cast in a period drama being done by a British director (Ralph Fiennes). Ehrenreich’s very endearing; he’s got a future in this business.
As he has done previously in Coen flicks, Clooney plays an idiot, and earns laughs alone from the puzzled look on his face (his character’s name earns a chuckle, too). Brolin’s the star of the show, though, and not just because he gets the most screen time or nails the rat-a-tat-tat speech pattern. He effortlessly imbues his fix-it man with wily smarts and doubt and heart. He’s a pleasure to watch.
Tilda Swinton also amuses as twin-sister gossip columnists, and the Coens make interesting, and wise, use of Channing Tatum and his inherent physicality. Wise best describes the Coens in general, here—certainly in how well they realize the costumes and sets, but mainly in how they construct the plot and integrate talk of Communism and such. In the realm of the Coens’ oeuvre, Hail, Caesar is fluff, but it’s intelligent fluff. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 6/7/16