Entertainment » Movies

Hail, Caesar!

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jun 7, 2016
Hail, Caesar!

"Hail, Caesar!" isn't the Coen Brothers' first love letter to the way movies used to look and feel -- the duo have frequently hearkened to cinematic textures and techniques from decades past, never more so than in the fast-talking screwball comedy "The Hudsucker Proxy." But "Hail Caesar," with its scatter-shot embrace of multiple staple genres from the days of the studio system is their most directly referential work to old Hollywood.

Josh Brolin plays Mannix, a studio "fixer" whose endlessly long days are spent cleaning up the messes that clueless film stars get themselves embroiled in. When Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of a Biblical epic ("Hail Caesar!") goes missing, Mannix has to juggle twin gossip columnists (both played with superb aplomb and gorgeous costumes by Tilda Swinton) along with all his other responsibilities: Finding a solution to the problem of the unmarried pregnancy of an Esther Williams-like synchronized swimming movie star (Scarlett Johansson), fielding complaints from the prissy director (Ralph Fiennes) of a drawing room melodrama when a singing, stunt-riding cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) is dumped in his lap, and contemplating a job offer from a corporation that has nothing to do with he madhouse of movie-making. (Also in the mix: A "Navy boys on the town" musical in which Channing Tatum tries on a whole different set of moves.)

But the missing actor hasn't gone off on a booze-fueled tear: He's been kidnapped by the bugbear of Hollywood, a cabal of Communist screenwriters who are looking to raise a little kapital (to the tune of $100,000) in ransom. Still, if Mannix can't locate Whitlock, and soon, he's going to have a whole new scandal (or, rather, an old one, given new life) hitting the papers thanks to the gossip columnists.

It's all delightful fun, and it's staged with a knowing and celebratory eye to each of the genres into which the movie dips a toe. The fact that the story is only loosely bound together with the most rudimentary of plots is beside the point; like the cameo appearances by the likes of Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand, this movie is all about hyper-real moments so colorful they seem saturated, not unlike the film stocks of the time. And if the film's pieces don't quite come together -- something the Coens seem to wink at, when they work in a sight gag involving a jigsaw puzzle and a final, non-fitting piece -- well, you still get the big picture. Even better, you get warmly nostalgic, vibrantly energetic salutes to a variety of old pictures and the stars who used to make them.

This Blu-ray release offers four brief promos, all of them looking with a cineaste's love at movies as they used to be made.

"Hail, Caesar!"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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