‘Hail, Caesar!’ Review

‘Hail, Caesar!’, the newest edition to the Coen's brother catalog, embodied adoration for Golden Age cinema.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ had an all-star line up.

hail caesar
Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

Hollywood has had its ups and downs. Whether it was the height of the Golden Age to pull many out of their Great-Depression funk, or the likes of post-WWII cinema to capture the raw emotions that came with such global trauma, the world of film kept up with the times (and the exact way people felt in those times).

Hence, the Coen brothers’ latest comedy of sorts, Hail, Caesar!, pays homage to a unique period of “in-betweens,” when the Cold War was gradually picking up where the World War left off. It embodies the hustle and bustle of a film studio’s assembly line of upcoming projects, all working towards the goals of financial and recreational gain. With recognizable plot lines and even more recognizable faces, Hollywood brought a sense of comfort to the big screen, and, at the time, that was enough bang for your buck.

And that’s where Hail, Caesar! succeeds. It works to pay tribute to this nostalgic and much simpler time in visual art by recreating those simple quirks in a complex way. In other words, the Coen brothers incarnate a sentimental era, applying what should have been a recognizable plot with even more recognizable faces (sound familiar?).

This comedy follows a ticking time bomb by the name of Eddie Mannix, the anxious “fixer” for Capital Studios who keeps each of the company’s plethora of in-house productions in-line without a single hiccup. Despite his best efforts, Mannix loses track of Baird Whitlock, Hollywood’s biggest name in lights and the star of Capital’s most elaborate production yet: Hail, Caesar! Furthermore, when news breaks out of his kidnapping by an enigmatic group with the pseudonym “The Future,” Mannix must recruit the likes of Western-extraordinaire Hobie Doyle and the now-pregnant eye candy DeeAnna Moran in order to get Whitlock back.

The storyline, despite its archetypal features, is both restless and often too perceptible. The audience knows certain outcomes and expects certain things, which is never a good sign. Nevertheless, what grips you to your seat for 106 minutes is the surprising all-star cast that knocks it out of the park.

Just to name-drop a few: Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johannson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Wayne Knight and George Clooney as the almighty Baird Whitlock are all exceptionally good at portraying their dynamic stereotypes at the helm of cinema. And it’s truly the bane of this film’s existence, to an extent.

“I didn’t see where the plot was going the whole time,” said Nutley-based film buff and long-time Coen brothers fanatic Jenna Stuiso. “The acting, however, was pretty spot-on. Thus, I feel bad that such great acting was put together with such a confusing storyline.”

Overall, Hail, Caesar! isn’t as neat and polished as the realm of classics that it’s attempting to revitalize. However, if the Coen brothers did anything with this project, it’s that they added their distinctively dry sense of charisma to this character study on steroids. And that’s enough to draw up old feelings, for better or for worse.

Hail, Caesar! is now playing locally in theaters such as AMC Loews Wayne 14, AMC Essex Green 9 in West Orange, and even Bow Tie Bellevue Cinemas 4 in the heart of downtown Montclair! For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com and make that long-awaited trip to the movies today!

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