Hail, Caesar!, 2016.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich.
Whilst trying to juggle the everyday dramas that he faces in his job, studio fixer Eddie Mannix must now find his main star, after they are kidnapped and held at ransom.
The latest caper from the Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), comes in the form of Hail, Caesar! A comedic throwback to the trials and tribulations of old Hollywood. Although enjoyable, it’s somewhat chaotic in places with the Coen Brothers focusing more on big set pieces and fun cameos, rather than the actual storyline.
Hail, Caesar! tells the story of Eddie Mannix; a man who in real life worked for MGM as a ‘fixer’ (think Ray Donovan if you’re not sure) from the early 1920’s until his death in 1962. Portrayed by Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, True Grit), the film follows Mannix dealing with the numerous dramas that arise in a matter of just a few days, including the kidnap of movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) and the out-of-wedlock pregnancy of DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson), whilst trying to juggle the demands of his family and the overhanging guilt of his devout Catholicism.
Set in 1951, in the golden era of Hollywood, studios are not only making and producing films, but also own their stars, ensuring their company name is never brought into disrepute. Clooney’s Baird Whitlock is in the middle of filming the epic ‘Hail, Caesar! A tale of the Christ’. With gossip columnists clambering over themselves trying to get stories about the drunken, unreliable, philandering star, it comes as no surprise to Mannix when Whitlock disappears off set. But after receiving a ransom note from a Communist group that call themselves ‘The Future’, Mannix realises that Whitlock must be in trouble and scrambles into action.
Josh Brolin does a solid job of portraying Eddie Mannix. Although the Mannix that he portrays is indeed a very fictional version of the real life Eddie Mannix. However, it’s quite clear that the Coen Brothers were not aiming for historical accuracy, despite the fact that all of their main characters are based on real Hollywood starlets. George Clooney doesn’t break a sweat portraying the comically ignorant Whitlock whereas Scarlett Johansson shines as DeAnna, a beautiful yet ruthless star of the studio who finds herself pregnant without a ring on her finger. Johansson doesn’t get enough screen time along with Tilda Swinton and Coen Brothers staple, Frances McDormand; they are all completely underused in their combined six scenes. Each actress only has on average two scenes each and although this is accurate of a 1950’s studio, a male dominated world, it doesn’t sit well in 2016. Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street) plays Burt Gurney, a Gene Kelly-esque actor who again, is only in two-three scenes. The Coen Brothers utilise Tatum’s skills as a dancer and as a comedic actor to great effect. However, just like with many of the other big set-pieces and wonderful homages to old Hollywood, these scenes don’t really add much to the story line and are there purely to show off.
However, in a film starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood today, the stand out star of Hail, Caesar! is Alden Ehrenreich who plays crooning cowboy Hobie Doyle. He outshines everyone. When Hobie, who is used to riding horses around the set of a western is thrust onto a sound stage to film a drama with Ralph Fiennes’ Laurence Laurentz at the helm, Ehrenreich’s charisma and comedic ability shines through. With the jawline of a young Johnny Depp and the ability to go toe-to-toe with Fiennes in one of the funniest scenes in the movie, Hail, Caesar! may have just launched Ehrenreich into super-stardom. In fact, if we don’t see more of Ehrenreich on our screens then something has gone seriously wrong.
Overall, Hail, Caesar! Is a fairly average film. Visually it is wonderful – the complexity of the ‘set within a set’ in a lot of scenes and the grand dance numbers are great. However, the amazing cast is wasted, with many of them putting in some rather mediocre performances. The huge cast with only a couple of scenes each, means that you don’t feel any connection to any of the characters. Unfortunately, apart from Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle, you’ll find that you just don’t care about any of them or what Mannix has to fix for them. Although it is worth a watch, certainly don’t waste your money at the cinema.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★