Hail, Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer for Capital Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix.
If you’re a film fanatic, a film buff, or follow film in anyway, you know that the Coen Brothers are basically Gods among men in the industry. Through their run, most of what they touch turns to gold. The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Inside Llewyn Davis are just a few of the masterpieces they’ve had their hands in, both writing and directing. Over the years, we’ve come to look forward to more and more whatever they do next, mainly because of how much depth is always included in their films. While I could continue on and talk about their run and the impact they’ve had, this is dedicated to their latest installment, Hail, Caesar!.
Most of the time, I know about films before the first trailer is released. With the internet and social media, it’s just nearly impossible to keep anything under-wraps. But Hail, Caesar! was a different story, it’s one of the rare opportunities I watched the trailer knowing absolutely nothing about it. I’m not sure if that had a hand in it or not, but I bought completely in from the very beginning. The trailer was absolutely exceptional, something we’ve come to expect from the Coen Brothers, and it resulted in me ranking their 1950s Hollywood based film number three on my most anticipated movies of 2016 list, that’s right, #3. More than Batman v Superman, more than Fantastic Beasts, that’s how f**king high my excitement was. But unfortunately I’m sad to say, my excitement was just to damn high.
I walked in Thursday night, grabbed my middle of the theater seat, pumped and ready to be given a terrifically written, performed, and directed story full of delightful comedy. As I got up from my seat and exited the theater, I realized I was given almost the exact opposite of what I wanted and was expecting; a dull film that does a great job of respecting 1950s Hollywood, but never comes together as the film it sets out be.
The story does start off very strong, introducing us to Josh Broil’s Eddie Mannix, who we’d be following along the journey through 1950s Hollywood. But just as the plot starts to thicken, that’s when everything starts to separate. Each time we started to inch closer to the mystery behind the abduction of George Clooney’s Baird Whitlock, the Coen’s wold cut to something entirely different, something that ultimately had nothing to do with the end result. There’s no doubt that a part of the inspiration behind this film was to pay homage to that time in the industry, but something I didn’t expect was to feel that that would overshadow everything that was going on. In short terms, Hail, Caesar! is such a great tribute to 1950s Hollywood that it forgets to be a good film.
It is rare when a movie is completely horrible with not a single bright spot, Hail, Caesar! is not one of those cases. The biggest positive coming out of the film are the performances. Each actor and actress is given free range to fully dive into that character, and for the most part, everyone succeeds. The issue is, Josh Brolin and George Clooney are the only ones given enough screen time to where we care. Each side story (and there are a lot of them), other than maybe one, means nothing to the end result. It goes back to what I was saying earlier, it was a film that wanted to show us 1950s Hollywood so much, that it forgets to give all its inner talent enough time to really work and tie everything in a nice little bow.
Although Hail, Caesar! didn’t end up as I hoped, I still very much recommend giving it a look. I’ve said it before, any Coen Brothers film is an event that should be attended. Unfortunately for me, that event was a boring disappointment. As I think about it more and more, the overall product felt like six different movies, with each story focusing on a different character, with it never really coming together as one, which results in the Coen Brothers’ latest to be more style than substance.