Hooray! Another offering from the brilliant Coen Brothers, Ethan and Joel, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ portrays a couple of days in the hectic life of the Head of Capitol Studios in the fifties. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has to solve all the problems of his studio’s stars and filmmakers, while avoiding any untoward publicity in the gossip hungry papers. Suffice to say Mannix has some concerns to sort out that are extremely challenging. Ranging from a pregnant unmarried actress, a cowboy who can lasso and sing but not act, communist screenwriters and missing movie stars, plus the fact that he has just given up smoking, Mannix has a lot on his plate.
Resplendent in short leather Roman tunic, George Clooney is Baird Whitlock. He is the matinee idol of Capitol Studio’s latest big production, a Biblical epic called ‘Hail, Caesar’. Unfortunately for Capitol, he has been drugged and kidnapped. If he doesn’t get returned in a couple of days to finish the film the studio stands to lose vast sums of money. Mannix isn’t at all fazed by the $100000 ransom demanded by Whitlock’s kidnappers, calling the studio’s accountant to say “I need some petty cash. Do you have $100,000?” Whitlock himself spends a great deal of time looking bemused, while being swayed towards communism by his chatty kidnappers.
At the same time on another film in Capitol Studio, Ralph Fiennes plays director Laurence Laurentz, appearing positively beleaguered trying to get his actor to deliver the line “would that it were so simple”. Alden Ehrenreich is the actor, a film cowboy called Hobie Doyle. It doesn’t bode well that poor Hobie can’t even pronounce Mr Laurentz’s name correctly. Fortunately for him he is fine-looking, even while failing to act.
Scarlett Johansson is synchronised swimmer / actress DeeAnna Moran. The sweet demeanour she glows with during her mermaid water ballet is a sharp contrast to her character’s rough edges. She has an increasingly problematic issue she needs Eddie Mannix’s help with. Her musical sequence is an amusing take on Esther Williams 1952 film Million Dollar Mermaid, and is visually entrancing.
Another of Capitol Studio’s stars is Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum). His dance moves in a bar full of seamen, wearing a tight sailor costume were a highlight – who realised he could tap dance and sing? Tatum spent three months training for this number, and it all comes together very successfully.
Tilda Swinton plays two of herself, as identical twins who happen to be rival newspaper columnists. Both are competing to get the most salacious gossip they can on the stars. Amazingly Mannix manages to tell the two sisters apart in their elaborate suits and hats, they both appeared identical to me.
Small but amusing parts go to Joel Coen’s wife Frances McDormand (in what is her 7th Coen film). She is chain smoking film editor C.C. Calhoun, while Jonah Hill as Joseph Silverman is a very serious surety agent.
‘Hail, Caesar!’ is an effortlessly entertaining movie, acknowledging the ‘Golden Age’ of post-war Hollywood. The only disappointment is that with the appearance of so many different Hollywood stars and such a variety of storylines the film lacked a cohesiveness. Rather than reaching a particular climax and conclusion it was more like a group of entertaining skits pulled together. That aside, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is definitely worth heading to for an amusing and engaging 106 minutes.
Rating: PG Coarse language.