Starring George Clooney and Josh Brolin Filmmaking siblings Ethan and Joel Coen can claim one of the most distinctive and consistently inventive bodies of work in American cinema, but their movies which can feel profound or featherweight, depending on perspective often divide audiences. This latest offering focuses on Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) and is partly based on the real MGM studio fixer of the same name on an average day spent dealing with kidnapped stars, pregnant starlets and the like. The ‘like’ includes the casting of unsuitable cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) in a prestige picture directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes, again showing his superior comedy chops). The central premise these denizens saunter through is the kidnapping of major Hollywood star Baird Whitlock (a dazed and confused George Clooney) by a group of screenwriting Communists who are preventing his latest epic (the titular Hail, Caesar!) from finishing. George Clooney’s role is small but Baird Whitlock – a popular A-lister who’s not as intelligent as he fashions himself to be – is yet another fine addition to Clooney’s body of work playing dimwits for the Coen Brothers. Most of the rest of the cast only show up in a few scenes, either playing characters who are clearly designed to be comical takes on real-life Hollywood icons (Scarlett Johansson as Esther Williams-esque DeeAnna Moran, Ralph Fiennes playing the Laurence Olivierinspired Laurence Laurentz) and other oddball types likely inspired by real people. The film itself is by parts delightful, witty and charming in the cynical, post-modern, scattergun nature of everything is worthless; “We’ll poke fun at everything because we can”. There’s a great deal to admire, particularly Channing Tatum’s Gene Kelly-like dance sequence and the sudden appearance of Tilda Swinton as identical twin gossip columnists. Sadly, when there is a reach for an actuality of emotional truth we’re left with little more than a latent attempt that seems reaching but fails to grasp ‘real world’ situations and how those affect individuals. Hail, Caesar’s composite elements don’t really add up to that much, despite the Coens’ attempts at a rousing finale that falls flat and leaves us questioning “Is that it?”. Maybe the Coen Brothers needed to be adults during the era of and 50’s to really get the product right.
Rated PG 4 out of 10