Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hail, Caesar!

Movie Name: Hail, Caesar!
Year of Release: 2016
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Fisher Stevens, Max Baker, Veronica Osorio, Heather Goldenhersh
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis & Review:
Writer/Directors Joel and Ethan Coen are back, following the stupendous "Inside Llewyn Davis", with a shift in gears, and revisiting a genre they have tackled before, the screwball comedy. The film focuses on the story of Eddie Mannix, the manager of Capitol Films, one of the big (fictional) studios of Hollywood in the 1950s. Eddie is dealing with the portfolio of films that his studio is producing and the stars he has on his payroll. One of the studio's big productions, "Hail Caesar!" hits a snag, when the lead star disappears and Eddie receives a ransom note indicating that Baird (the lead actor) has been kidnapped. The kidnappers turn out to be a group of disgruntled screenwriters, who are also secretly communists, and are intent on partaking in the profits the studios make at the expense of their talent. It's up to Eddie to clean up this entire situation.
Joel and Ethan Coen have made a career of juggling multiple genres, which they revisit through their unique perspective. They've been successful in some of their comedies, particularly "Raising Arizona" and "O Brother Where Art Thou?", but have also floundered, particularly with "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers". "Hail, Caesar!" sadly turns out to be one of their least successful films: it tries to capture the glory and underbelly of classic Hollywood, by exposing some of the dirt behind what went on in the business, but sadly the film lacks momentum, spark or even a genuine caustic tone to make an impression. Most characters are simply cliches, and appear and disappear quickly enough, never making much of an impression (sadly so, since Tilda Swinton's characters and Alden Ehrenreich's both deserved more attention). The film is an impeccable showcase for the artistry and professionalism of the team that the directors brought together, namely the cinematography of Roger Deakins and the score from Carter Burwell, but lacks rhythm and even the slapstick that made the flawed but funny "The Hudsucker Proxy" worth watching. Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes all create interesting characters, but sadly not enough to save the film. A quickly forgotten endeavor from these talented directors.