A Little Background: Directors Joel & Ethan Coen just can’t make bad films. Hail, Caesar! marks their seventeenth full feature, dating back to 1984, when they debuted the neo-noir thriller Blood Simple. Of course, every director has their head-scratchers, but even The Ladykillers and The Hudsucker Proxy have their moments of charm and brilliance. With this film, the Coens go all out satire, creating one of the greatest tributes to the Golden Age of Hollywood. The storytelling is obviously reminiscent of 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. On one side of the coin, Hail, Caesar! is an homage-parody of the 1940s/1950s film age, and on the other side, Singin’ in the Rain lovingly spoofs the silent film era and the early talkies. While the overall plot is expertly handled, it is also very anecdotal, featuring vignettes of various subplots and supporting characters. This unique style of storytelling makes you want to watch these characters for another couple of hours. Maybe they should adapt it into a television series. It wouldn’t be the first time a successful anthology show was created from a Coen brothers movie.
The Film: Josh Brolin brilliantly plays the main protagonist, Eddie Mannix, who was a real-life Hollywood fixer during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. It is a fictionalized version of Mannix, and all of the events are completely fabricated as well. He is a savior-like character with a high personal moral code. His job has him going about Hollywood getting actors and directors out of jams and keeping the industry above reproach, or least looking like it from the outside. His main conflict is finding the studio’s leading actor who is being held for ransom by a troop of closet communists attempting to overthrow McCarthyism. No matter what the time, place, or genre, the Coens can somehow always put that gritty, witty noir angle at the very center of their stories, and this film is no exception. Hollywood caricatures and disguised references abound, with inspirations including Esther Williams, Hedda Hopper, Laurence Olivier, Carmen Miranda, Vincent Minelli-esque dance numbers, Ben-Hur, North by Northwest, and the “Road to” movies.
Three Favorite Things: the incredible attention to detail with sets and costumes, the darkly playful and unparelleled stylings of Joel and Ethan Coen, and a diversely talented ensemble cast brought together to craft a love letter to cinema