Sunday, April 10, 2016

Film Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Copyright: Universal Pictures
However you look at it, Hail, Caesar! is a densely layered film which is immensely enjoyable on its surface. Designed as a weird comedy about the golden age of Hollywood and one man’s mission to keep it that way, the film’s plot quickly branches out into numerous other domains, including religion, workers’ rights and the role of musical interludes.

In it, Coen brothers do what they do best and mix strangeness with latent meaning, but in a way that makes them look more like baboons and not David Lynch disciples. Their best films use this formula to a degree and even though this film is not one of those, it still provides a celebration of some of the most recognizable cinematography in the last 30 years.

For most of the film, the perspective of the plot is split between characters that are somehow connected to a disappearance of a big movie star from the set of a historical epic film. 

The star, played by George Clooney, and its disappearance quickly became a problem for Eddie Mannix, a jack of all trades employed by the studio to make sure that all goes according to the plan.

Eddie is played by Josh Brolin and he does a marvelous job presenting a type of hard-boiled, violent and devoted man that apparently died out with the digital age, which I don’t lament in any shape or form. As he pushes through many cultural regions of 1950’s Hollywood, Eddie allows the audience to soak in the atmosphere of this time naturally enforced through overstatements and sometimes bizarre levels of sarcasm that still keep true to the original intent.

But, the only problem of this fun and enjoyable film is the second part, where a small fraction of direction kind of gets lost in the metaphors and multiple plot perspectives. Here, Coen brothers wanted to make a point whichever that point might have been, most likely including Jesus, faith, communism and righteous distribution of wealth, all in a comedy form, but I failed to properly notice or/and decipher these ideas. That is why, for me, the second half of the film loses some energy.

Thankfully, it was nowhere near enough to make me lose my interest. I’m glad that films like Trumbo can come out together with films like Hail, Caesar! and show a similar era in a manner that is both bold and hard to interpret. Maybe I didn’t get it, but I sure did like it, which is great compared to Trumbo which I did get but did not really enjoy in any way.