Hail, Caesar!

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum

Basic Plot: The film, set in 1950’s Hollywood, centers on an old-school studio fixer (Josh Brolin) who tries to keep his studio’s films afloat, all while dealing with the kidnapping of one of their biggest stars (George Clooney).

Review By Mike DeAngelo:

 It’s hard to deny that the Coen Brothers are master filmmakers. Their writing, their direction, their casting, their crew, and their repeated & unwavering use of John Goodman (who’s dearly missed in this film) – all of it is always just so face slappingly excellent. Even with all of that, their movies don’t always hit the ol’ bullseye. Then again, that’s a matter of taste. Luckily, their movies are so wildly different that they’ll likely have something for everyone at some point in their careers. My current personal favorites are: Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country For Old Men, True Grit, and Inside Llewyn Davis. For me, the rest of them have missed the mark by varying degrees for different reasons; however, I’m always able to appreciate the mastery of their craft. With that said, I’m not entirely sure if Hail, Caesar makes that list.

As a whole, Hail, Caesar is a little all over the place - at times it feels like some of the Coen’s best work, and at other times, like some of their worst. As always, the world itself is pitch perfect. It’s clear that this era of Hollywood has a special place in their heart. It’s also a place where their stylized, left-of-center humor truly shines.

Sadly, this is one of the only movies of theirs that feels a little thin to me. That may be because they edited the dang thing down to the bare bones. All the structural basics for the movie are there. Each cast member is also given his or her place to shine. Yet, come the rolling of the credits, it feels incomplete. So much so that there were multiple disappointed/confused grunts in the theatre when the credits rolled.

Hey… remember two seconds ago when I said that each cast member gets their own place to shine? Well, that’s true, but sometimes that “moment to shine” may only be their one scene in the whole movie. It’s like they just couldn’t say no to these fairly big-name actors, and just gave them a scene because why not?

Yet, with all of the big names on the bill, it’s one of the more relatively unknown actors that steals every scene he’s in – and that actor is Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the astoundingly stupid, yet surprisingly compelling western actor turned unwitting love-interest, Hobie Doyle. I would have loved it if the movie just followed this character’s point of view through the whole story. The piece as a whole would have most definitely benefited from it. This kid has future leading man written all over him, so don’t be surprised when he shows up as the star of some future superhero franchise. Is he too young for Green Lantern? Think about it, Warner Bros…

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a movie that is the literal embodiment of the phrase “you win some, you lose some.” Brolin, Clooney, Tatum, Johansson, Ehrenreich, Swinton, and more all bring their A-game; however, we’re left with a roast that feels like it needed some more time in the oven (sorry vegetarians – just replace that with whatever the vegetarian equivalent of a roast would be…Tofu Surprise? Raisin Balls?) Let’s just end with that…