Few directors are as worshipped and revered as Joel & Ethan Coen, so when they unveil to us the result of an idea they first had twelve years ago, the hype was understandable – and mostly deserved.
Hail, Caesar! follows studio big cheese, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he tries to locate his kidnapped movie star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) in the midst of several other scandals enveloping 1950s Hollywood.
This is essentially a love letter to old cinema, which casts a largely loving look at Westerns, period dramas and the sweeping, rousing biopics like Spartacus. Clooney’s character resembles Kirk Douglas, with other characters inspired by the likes of Gene Kelly and Kirby Grant.
The tale is told with a great degree of charm, bordering on the ludicrous, but runs the risk of being swallowed up by a jumpy and unpredictable storyline. The central story is actually quite brief, and all the sub-plots, although time-consuming, are very enjoyable side-shows. The dance sequence with Channing Tatum is wonderfully done and great to watch, but also completely irrelevant to the story.
Jonah Hill fans will be disappointed. He is doing well if he has more than three minutes of screen time, which for an actor of his talent and popularity just doesn’t feel like enough. However, there are fantastic turns from Tilda Swinton as two twin journalist sisters and Scarlett Johansson stuck in a mermaid costume. And did I mention Channing Tatum?
But this aside, just watch Hail, Caesar! for the sheer joy of how it looks. Roger Deakins once again delivers cinematography heaven, dazzling in his use of bright colour, and the set designs meticulously recreate the vividness and excitement of old Hollywood in a way you simply adore.
Maybe the Coens are preaching to the converted. It is a funny film, but it has a particularly… particular sense of humour. If you see the Coens as God-like figures (and why wouldn’t you?) then this film will have you on your knees basking in its divine light. If you do not carry this faith, then some of the jokes will escape you.
Image: dummy; youtube.com