In the realm of movies about movies there are great films like Singin’ in the Rain, Day For Night, The Artist, and The Aviator, and now there is a new film to number among them: Hail, Caesar! by the Brothers Coen. This might be the best, funniest, and most heartfelt of the lot. This film is a gut-wrenching and hilarious look at filmmaking during the heyday of 1950s Hollywood.
The main character, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of “physical production” and in charge of keeping the studio’s stars out of scandals. He is an executive in a studio but is really just a working-class schmuck like your average Joe. He struggles with smoking and is trying to quit for his wife, and he has issues balancing his work-life with his home-life. He is a super likable guy and works very well as a moral-center, and even when we maybe question some of his decisions we want him to succeed.
The film follows Mannix over the course of a couple of days in which the whole of the studio system suddenly falls apart. There are three stories at play in this film: 1. Baird Whitlock (George Cloony) is the studio’s biggest star and is appearing in the flagship picture of the year: ‘Hail, Caesar: A Tale of the Christ,” a sword-and-sandals biblical epic. Baird is kidnapped and disappears off of the studio lot. By the way: Communists. I’ll just say that. 2. DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is a star of “aquatic pictures” (dance movies in pools), has a general bad attitude, and ends up pregnant out of wedlock. 3. Hobbie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is a singin’ cowboy who is moved out of Cowboy B-Pictures and into the big time. This includes his “change of image” and a new studio-arranged romance with a Latin dancer. Unfortunately, despite his being put in a big prestige picture, he can’t act.
So Mannix, the wonderful production leader he is, has to step up and solve all of these issues as quickly as possible. I’ll spoil this for you: he fixes most everything, but that isn’t the point. The point of this movie is the pure hilarity that ensues from the circumstances. Hail, Caesar! lampoons everything having to do with the golden era of Hollywood. It’s fantastic. I’m a bit sad that this was dumped in the first quarter of the year, but it might be because this movie wouldn’t perform well any other time of year. It’s a very odd movie. Tonally just odd, but yet very fun and charming. It’s typical Coen madcap comedy and it works very well. Of the Coen movies I’ve seen thus far, this is probably the most fun, but I also have a soft spot in my heart for movies about movies.
Hail, Caesar! is so much fun. It would be a shame for this movie to fly under the radar as I’m afraid it will. Go see it. Watching the Coens lampoon everything about the golden era of Hollywood that we hold in such high esteem is great. This movie hits all of the highlights of the era: the music, the western, the biblical epic, and even the Red Scare that ran through all of America during this time period. A very serious film could be made of these topics, yet the Coens saw the insanity in these events and realized it could be milked for comedy.
Their attempt was successful.