Finding Jesus in Hail, Caesar!
Ryan Duncan Crosswalk.com blogspot for ChristianMovieReviews.com and Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Entertainment and Culture editor
- 2016 Feb 12
The Coen Brothers' newest comedy has a lot to say about God. Not quite in the traditional sense, mind you. Hail, Caesar! (read Crosswalk's review of Hail, Caesar! here) is essentially a film about the inner workings of a Hollywood studio trying to make a film, and that film just happens to be about the crucifixion. Still, Jesus has a way of coloring the edges of anything He touches, and the same is true for this oddball period piece. Wade Bearden, of the site Christ & Pop Culture, believes the Coens' latest project reflects Christians' inability to accurately reflect the holiness and wonder of God, particularly in media. He begins by pointing out a particular scene in the film’s first act:
“In the movie’s best scene, Mannix sits down with a number of religious figures in hopes of obtaining their theological seal of approval for the studio’s Hail, Caesar!production. The ensuing conversation, regarding the nature of the Father and Son, between a Catholic priest, Greek Orthodox Priest, Rabbi, and a Protestant minister (which already sounds like the beginning of rowdy joke) is as sidesplitting as it is tongue-in-cheek—the Coen brothers brilliantly satirizing recent discussions surrounding biblical movies like Noahand Exodus. The set piece also works as an inquiry into the nature of the film industry itself. The studio is concerned about making a movie that ‘will not offend anyone.’ Art and product are so often easily intertwined. Can both work together?”
Bearden continues to argue that art, much like Scripture, can often be interpreted differently depending on the audience. Such difference in perspective often leads to harsh, sometimes turbulent arguments within the church, when in reality they should enlighten us. As Bearden says in his closing arguments, none of us can truly know the full character of God.
“We know that Hollywood is ‘make believe’—the speeches aren’t ‘real’—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t give us truth every once in awhile. While the Coen brothers don’t land in a fixed theological position, they understand that our scrapings at the divine, our many artistic renderings, reflect something true. Often, like the television antenna in A Serious Man, our reception of God’s presence finds itself swallowed by static. We search for a vision, and often can’t see it. Even our Christ figures—and Hail, Caesar!has its Christ figures—are just mirrors of the true Father and Son.”