Monday, February 29, 2016

Hail, Caesar!

A pleasant diversion from the Coen Brothers.  Not one of their top-tier efforts such as The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Barton Fink, or Raising Arizona, nor one of their misfires like The Ladykillers or Inside Llewyn Davis.

If you like Hollywood, particularly old Hollywood, circa 1951, and the films of that era you'll find a lot to enjoy.  Set in a Hollywood studio, the plot, such as it is, revolves around the kidnapping of star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) who is in the midst of filming the studio's epic about Jesus entitled Hail, Caesar!  The movie also features song and dance numbers, a spectacular water film a la Esther Williams, Chinese restaurants, an ecumenical review board for Hail, Caesar with a Catholic priest, Protestant minister, Orthodox bishop and rabbi, and a cabal of Communist screenwriters.

The movie revolves around Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the studio's production head and chief fixer.  Brolin is terrific and most of the cast is solid.  Clooney reprises the numbskull roll he's played so effectively before for the Coens in O Brother and Intolerable Cruelty.  He's particularly funny discoursing on the dialectic after being brainwashed by the Commies.

Scarlett Johansson plays the Esther Williams-type character (no way can that be bad), Channing Tatum is the song and dance guy, with more going on than initially appears, Tilda Swinton plays characters based on Hollywood gossip legends Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons and Wayne Knight (Newman!) has a small, but pivotal part.

Best of all is Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle, an aw-shucks, singing cowboy and stunt man who turns out to be a lot sharper than it first seems and Veronica Osorio as Carlotta Valdez, a Carmen Miranda type actress.  It's fun to watch Ehrenreich and Osorio's interplay in their two scenes together.


  1. May give it a whirl, thanks. dm

  2. This is one I really enjoyed. I'll mention a couple of things. First, there is a fight over the soul of America: Should a guy with the skills of idealized Eddie Mannix--real guy was horrible--stay in Hollywood to make beauty look good, in a place where fantasies are usually placed in the past--or dedicate himself to serving science & progress, where good things are actually done, & where fantasies are about the future.
    Also, what are the Coens saying: Why does scientific America need a guy like him?

    Secondly, is the commie rowboating a recreation of Washington crossing the Delaware, down to the folded arm pose, or what!

    I wrote it up extensively over on my website:
    & I discussed it with my favorite writer for close-reading-of-movies, Mr. Carl Eric Scott, over at the postmodern conservative blog on National Review.