Joel Coen, Ethan Coen / Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes / Comedy / 2016 / 12A / 106mins
Set the scene: 1950s LA, we follow Capitol Pictures producer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) on his day to day business. It’s fairly manic, but it’s just about to get a lot worse.
Hail, Caesar! seems, in a weird twist of fate, the satirical twin to Trumbo. This is unintentionally (although I hope fully intentionally) hilarious and adds a unique nuanced depth. That aside, it’s the most Coen-esque film in years. Bizarre, quick-witted comedy that harks back to Burn After Reading.
Josh Brolin has dabbled with comedy before (think W.) and it pays off. He seems believably flabbergasted by his miscreant actors yet makes it obvious he gets his kicks out of it: nuanced character development at its most prodigious. Clooney has mastered Coen comedy, although he’s the familiar ‘dumb suave’ as lead actor Baird Whitlock we’ve seen before – hardly new ground.
Sole laugh-out-loud scene goes to the Fiennes-Ahrenreich confrontation (top notch). Overall, the comedy comes in waves, littered here and there, found with only a curious eye and ear. It’s bizzaro-humour aims may baffle some people but it’s just what the Coens adore.
The downfall lies, remarkably, in the editing. We get a diaspora of meshed scenes. A tired person could easily lose track of certain subplots. Believe me, there’s a lot that seems implausibly connected. It all ties up, but a scene from each actor’s ‘film’ is used as a de facto introduction. It’s half relevant (at a push?) but we know they’re famous, they’re actors – a montage would do, or even a quip of dialogue.
One final note: Michael Gambon’s narration. It’s sporadic and untimely, like having someone talk behind you at the cinema – just fuck off!
The Coen’s are in cruise control and they don’t really give a shit whether you like it or not. Here’s a pointless sequence: FUCK YOU. Here’s a satire of films even though this is a film: FUCK YOU. A giant, yet quaint (and oddly charming), middle finger at the industry.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 3
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By Source, fair use via Wikipedia.
The poster art copyright is believed to belong to Universal Studios.