Hail, Caesar! Movie Review
My fiancé almost walked out of the new Coen brothers movie Hail, Caesar!, and while those more familiar with the directing duo’s work won’t have such a strong reaction, the odd comedy is arguably the worst movie they’ve ever made.
One should always be wary of any film set in the nostalgic era of Hollywood because filmmakers, even ones as talented as Joel and Ethan Coen, tend to become deluded into thinking that regular moviegoers are anywhere near as fascinated by the time period as they are. And as Hail, Caesar! bounces from one movie set to the next, it becomes clear that the Coen brothers were more interested in making vignettes that harken back to movies of old--from period dramas to sailor song-and-dance numbers and westerns--than actually something with substance and meaning.
Hail, Caesar! is truly an unfocused mess, a movie without purpose or intent or anything for the audience latch onto. That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its highlights--it is a Coen brothers movie, after all, and they do strange comedy better than most--but it’s a satire without bite, a comedy without a punchline.
Josh Brolin is solid as the studio head who has to deal with all the crazy antics his actors, filmmakers and producers get into--as well as the kidnapping of his star (George Clooney) by a group of communist intellectuals. Clooney, in a smaller role, doesn’t disappoint either as he’s always been oddly adept at nailing simple-minded individuals with vacant stares.
Hail, Caesar! works in isolated scenes but not synergistically. The first scene where Clooney encounters his communist captors is a superbly written riot, and the off kilter scene where a director (Ralph Fiennes) attempts to coach a popular but horrible actor on how to actually speak dialogue speaks to the Coen brothers’ craftsmanship. But there are other scenes, like an awkwardly long synchronized swimming routine with an underutilized Scarlett Johansson or an admittedly impressive song-and-dance number with Channing Tatum that aren’t without merit but add literally nothing to the movie at large, distracting from whatever vague plot the Coens were attempting to convey and reaffirming that audience entertainment wasn’t their priority here.
Hail, Caesar! is funny at times, but the movie leaves you feeling guilty, as if you laughed because you felt you should because other people were laughing because they felt they needed to because this is a Coen brothers movies and Coen brothers movies are amazing. The movie is a letdown, one best left on the cutting room floor.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.