Hail, Caesar! is a Goofy Valentine to Hollywood's Golden Age
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 3 Feb
In what's easily one of the Coen Brothers' zaniest movies about Hollywood's inner workings since Barton Fink, the audience is transported back to the 1950s where one very busy man tries to keep one hectic movie studio's biggest stars out of trouble. 3 out of 5.
When he's not reporting his latest struggles with giving up smoking to his priest during confession, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is constantly multi-tasking as a Hollywood fixer. Whether it's finding out who kidnapped his big, dim-witted star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), figuring out how the star of a string of successful aquatic films (Scarlett Johansson) can adopt her own baby without being disgraced, or keeping a temperamental director (Ralph Fiennes) happy when he clearly dislikes the casting for his new film, Eddie's life is truly never dull.
Hail, Caesar!'s madcap pacing and oddball humor are a total delight, with a mystery that'll keep the audience guessing for the duration. Proving that less can truly be more, some of the film's biggest stars pack a major wallop with only a scene or two. The best examples are Frances McDormand as a nervous and wacky projectionist; Tilda Swinton, who plays two sisters who happen to be rival gossip columnists; and Channing Tatum, who practically steals the show with a cleverly choreographed tap-dancing sequence.
The Coen Brothers' sense of humor [insert Raising Arizona quote here] is definitely more of an acquired taste that some viewers may not "get" or find all that funny. As the movie shifts from storyline to storyline in and around the studio, it can feel a bit haphazard and jarring.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Eddie is shown in a confession booth in a couple of scenes, and one gets the sense that while he's sorry for what he's done (lying to his wife about quitting smoking), confession is more of a break from his hectic life than anything else. Even the priest gets a bit exasperated by how often Eddie shows up, which makes for a bit of enjoyable comic relief.
Related Story: Finding Jesus in Hail, Caesar!
One of the movies the studio is making, namely Hail, Caesar!, is a story about "The Christ." In an attempt to make it "respectful" and theologically sound, Eddie consults with a variety of religious leaders who all have different, and sometimes very funny, takes. And while the movie never takes blatant stabs at faith or depicts Jesus in a way that's truly offensive, there's a sort of Monty Python-esque feel about the humor. For instance, while Jesus is on the Cross, we see the actor's feet twitch.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking
- Language/Profanity: Very light on profanity; the occasional exclamation of God's name, hel-, son of a bit-- or dam-.
- Sexuality/Nudity: No sex scenes or nudity, but there is a reference to sodomy, a woman who's "knocked up" before she's married, and a dance sequence called "No Dames" where the guys seem a "little too into each other" that's played for laughs.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Only violence of a comedic nature.
Drugs/Alcohol: Cigarette smoking throughout. Baird's drink is spiked with something that knocks him out before he’s kidnapped.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of previous Coen Brothers fare and moviegoers who enjoy a good cinematic throwback to another era.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those who prefer a more obvious and straightforward style of comedy or movies with more traditional storylines, plot and characterization. Plus, if one has the expectation of seeing all the big-name talent advertised, she may be disappointed as some of the actors show up for little more than a scene or two.
Hail, Caesar!, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, opened in theaters February 5, 2016; available for home viewing June 7, 2016. It runs 106 minutes and stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill. Watch the trailer for Hail, Caesar! here.
Christa Banister is a Dallas-based freelance writer and the author of two novels she describes as "romantic comedies in novel form," Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. You can find out more about her current work in progress and the avid cook, traveler and Green Bay Packer fan at www.christabanister.com or by following her on Twitter (@ChristaBanister).
Publication date: February 4, 2016