Movie: Hail Caesar
My Rating: 3 stars
I was a little bit baffled by this movie. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what it was trying to be. I had imagined that this was going to be a pretty straightforward, old-timey, showbiz comedy. But, it wasn’t quite that. This movie is a dark comedy but there’s a lot of reference humor going on too, and I don’t think I had the necessary skills to get it. I gathered that the movie was making fun of specific actors, personalities, and events from classic Hollywood history. But, I just don’t know enough about Hollywood’s old studio system to have caught many of the references. And, I think I would have found this movie a lot funnier if I had.
I generally like the Coen brothers’ films. But, I guess I feel the same way about their other films as a feel about this one—moderately enjoyable. Each of their movies feels like one, big in-joke that I’m not a part of. But, I think the Coen brothers genuinely think that most of their audience is in on it. And, they have such a good reputation for making smart, witty films that there probably aren’t many people who are willing to admit that they’re a bit baffled. But, I could just be projecting. So, I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with the character work in this film. That really is the best part about this film anyway.
I love how this film delves into the idea of how the reality of show business differs from the public’s perception. The people want to believe that their favorite actors are the same people off screen as they are on. Scarlett Johansson is the wide-eyed ingénue. Her public image is that of a squeaky clean, good girl. But, she’s really a smoking, swearing, tart. George Clooney’s a handsome leading man. He’s supposed to be suave and charming. And, no one is supposed to know what an airhead he is. I probably most enjoyed the performance by Alden Ehrenreich, playing cowboy Hobie Doyle. This is the first I’ve seen of him, and I really liked his style. He’s supposed to be the manly crooner, but in fact he’s just really confused. It’s very funny. Channing Tatum is dancing, per usual. And, Josh Brolin plays one of those old, film noir gumshoes. He’s a fixer, a closer, a damage control expert. He’s in charge of keeping his stars’ images bright and shiny, and he’s pretty much willing to do whatever dirty work he needs to for his entertainment business employers. This is necessary in part because of the gossip columnists, who would kill to get their hands on a juicy story. My favorite actress, Tilda Swinton, plays squabbling, twin gossip writers, and both of her characters are hilarious.
I did find something to like about this movie even though I wasn’t able to appreciate it fully. The Coen brothers always do create some pretty great characters, and that’s definitely what carried this film for me. I wish there were more of a story line to tie them all together, but I acknowledge that that might not have been possible in this context. I don’t think I liked this movie enough to recommend it to anyone. But, I did enjoy seeing some of my old favorite actors at it again, and I’m definitely going to keep my eye open for the new ones I discovered.