‘Hail, Caesar!’ provides irrelevant fun

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“Hail, Caesar!” brought in a humble $11.4 million during its opening weekend.

“Hail, Caesar!” is a giant love letter to golden era Hollywood, even though it might not have been all that golden.  Directed and written by Joel and Ethan Coen, “Hail, Caesar!” is the return of the Coen’s trademark dry humor in the tradition of “The Big Lebowski” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”.

The film is about studio executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) who acts as a fixer, someone who deals with the personal lives of actors and tries to prevent scandals from becoming public.

Capital Pictures, the studio Mannix works for, is producing “Hail, Caesar!” which portrays the story of the crucifixion from the point of view of a roman general played by world famous actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney).

Things go awry when Whitlock is abducted by a group calling themselves “The Future” and demand $100,000 for his return. Mannix also has to deal with director Laurence Lorenz (Ralph Fiennes) and his unhappiness with the cowboy actor, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), being cast as the lead in Lorenz’s film,  and actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who becomes pregnant while filming her new movie, while twin reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton) try to get their own scoop on the studio.

The cast also includes Frances McDormand as the studio’s film editor C.C. Calhoun, Channing Tatum as the tap dancing Burt Gurney and Jonah Hill as a notary.

The movie plays like a series of interlocking sketches more than a straight up story. Each scene has its own setup and punch line. It helpscreate this “day in the life” vibe they have going on for Mannix.

On the flip side, this fills the movie with superfluous scenes that don’t really have anything to do with the kidnapping plot.

Many scenes could be cut and the plot wouldn’t be affected in any meaningful way. In fact, Johanssons’ characters’ story could be completely removed from the film.

This movie lampoons many film genres, from historical epics to cowboy westerns to Gene Kelly dance musicals.

The movie pays homage to the genres, including a five-minute dance scene with Tatum as a sailor- and it is glorious. It also plays with behind the scene drama with overbearing directors and clueless actors. Fans of golden age Hollywood films will get a kick out of the references.
The actors are great, especially since many of them are not only playing their characters, but also playing the characters that their characters are playing.

There is great contrast between the actors and the characters they’re playing in the movies. Clooney’s womanizing, drinking Whitlock becomes a grand Roman general who delivers beautiful monologues.

The acting captures both the cheesy over-the-top old school acting and a more realistic takeon how people spoke.  It’s neat how the film captures the duality of the characters.  The sets for the movie really look like the movies they’re lampooning. It really helps develop the fantasy world.

Fans of absurdest comedies,  the film work of Joel and Ethan Coen and old films will get a kick out of “Hail Caesar!”.