Hail, Caesar! – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

hail caesar!Hail, Caesar! – 3.5/5 – The nature of directors is to create something that’s unique to their vision.  That is the case when it comes to the Coen Brothers.  There films have always been ones that stood out because of the imaginative nature of their storytelling.  There is never a linear grip because of the various characters that move the story along.  A combination of witty dialogue and uncommon scenarios; their films have always been a gem to watch.  Even so, there are times when that creativity can usurp the overall experience of a film.  Hail, Caesar! Is a film directed, written and produced by the Coen Brothers.  There is a variable sense that pays homage to silver era of Hollywood, but it gets lost in translation.  For all the greatness that happens with some of the characters, situations and some subdued banter; this film falters in its overall experience and becomes just another tale of average storytelling.

Premise:  In the 1950s; a studio head must work through unorthodox situations to keep the movies on track.

The acting in this film is filled with many, many big name actors/actresses.  You can reference the IMDB page for the full list of characters; but I will mention four that stand out:

Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix

George Clooney as Baird Whitlock

Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle

Scarlett Johansson as DeeAnna Moran

These four stand out because of the uniqueness found in each of their personalities.  All of them are bombastic in nature; but it’s quelled within a subtle approach of oddness and situational scenarios.  Their characters come out in full bloom when their storylines cross paths or speak to a ‘specific’ purpose to the ideas overarching in the film.  When you see these four on screen, they pop out of the screen.  From a mix of blunt humor, witty conversations and overall odd interactions with others; you find yourself amused and curiously drawn to them.  It is a surreal abstract that takes place, one that places irony upon the reality of their caricature.  There is something that makes you want to be a part of the conversation.  This is a great testament to the influence of the script and the acting ability of these four individuals.  With the rest, they stand out within the same kind of ‘oddly’ unaligned fashion, but it becomes something that is reflective nature of the ‘homage’ lens that is brought upon this story.  This can come across as dulling because of the varied sections of just ‘random’ pop-up and stand ins. This shows a significance to ‘who is this person’ then ‘who are they’ as a character.  Even so, with these characters being pushed to the background; it doesn’t hinder the value of watching this film.

The direction of this film can be a seen as a combination of many things.  The Coen Brothers are notorious when it comes to building around an idea, breaking down themes while ‘infusing’ characters within an abstract story.  With that, you get multiple storylines that either parallel or cross paths at some point.  The oddity of not having a linear perspective but a forward progression makes their films stand out.  This unusual method allows these brothers to strike the heart of the film through heavy use of wit, humor and conversational dialogue.  This allows for the story and characters to move in a fashion that there is some purpose; with or without a central plot point.  Hail, Caesar! Is no expectation to this rule.  This film tackles the ideas of ‘the silver age’ of Hollywood cinema while also showing the mask of glorified escapism upon the realistic truth behind the camera.  Within these themes, the film plays to a lot of archetypal tropes found in all films; it also stakes a claim with the darkly comedy card by making these tropes stand out in its showy nature.  It is unusual but amazingly welcomed.  As you watch this film, the ‘unaligned’ nature of the first half of the film will throw most for a loop.  There is no coherent plot, motive or recognizable focus of who, what, where and why things are happening.  It seems as if there is no rhyme or reason to the ongoing nature of what is happening.  This approach is one that allows for the ‘homage’ to old school Hollywood takes a hold on what is truth to the ongoing reality.  It allows the audience to see the frivolous workings of how studio heads, actors/actress, directors and writers have input to what is happening ‘behind the scenes’ of a motion picture.  This also allows for the unexpected things to happen.  That ‘unexpected’ event is the multiple storylines with the four characters mentioned earlier.  The entanglement of their ‘lives’ tends to take precedent, but is never seen through the audience’s view of the ‘bigger picture’. That irony of the bigger picture being had is one that causes the dialogue to stand out strongly.  For the ‘lacking’ of a real coherent plot, it is the interactions that show a dramatization of something that is realistic but comical.  Alluring and condense, it is the situational method that helps the film become ‘enjoyable’ before it falls apart.   Once we get into the second half, the homage aspect starts to give way to what is really the ‘truth’ of all of the meddling subplots.  Everything starts to become somewhat indifferent as it drives further confusion of the ‘who, what, where and why’.  The method the Coen Brothers use to get this to point is one that is refreshing, new and attractive, but with a thinly like ‘climax’  for what transpired before; it makes the experience a little less thrilling.  Once the film hits its epilogue, it is fitting it ends on a darkly humoristic side; but it is far too late to recapture the potential of what happened in the first half.

The visuals of the film are a blend of imagination with realism. With an on look of what happens on the studio set; the visage of all the different aspects of filming, building and coordination helps bridge something of a different experience.  Even with that, some of the spectacles become more than it should, causing a ‘step back’ reaction.  The score is a mixture of old school musical sounds with some indifferent instrumental quips; but it isn’t something that stakes its claim as building up moments.

Hail, Caesar! Is a film that has a lot of greatness littered throughout; but the payoff makes the experience a little less amusing.  There is a great cast, some unique conversations and unexpected situations; but it is (as a whole) a good experience.  If you’re a fan of the Coen Brothers or any of the actors involved, I say it is worth your time.  At most, this is worth seeing at a Matinee, but nothing more than that.

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