Friday, November 25, 2016
Hail Caesar! (USA/UK, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016)
Hail, Caesar! is an enjoyable movie - fun, and funny. It's very much a collection of episodes rather than a coherent story, but the best of the episodes are well worth it. Best of all is Channing Tatum's dance number - Tatum can't quite carry off the Gene Kelly thing of being a song-and-dance man whilst exuding heteronormative masculinity, but he does his best. There's also a great scene where Hail, Caesar!, the movie within the movie. is checked for any potential offensive content with four religious leaders who can't agree.
This is a movie very much of cameos. No-one apart from Josh Brolin as central fixer Eddie Mannix or George Clooney's idiot actor Baird Whitlock are on screen for very long. Scarlett Johannsen as out-of-control starlet DeeAnna Moran has a particularly small role considering how much she's in the movie's publicity - she only has two short scenes. The same is true of Ralph Fiennes as director Laurence Laurentz, finally finding his comedy persona, and Tilda Swinton as twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker. Blink, and you will miss Frances McDormand as editor C.C. Calhoun, Dolph Lundgren as a Russian submarine commander, Christopher Lambert as a Scandinavian director, and a heavily made-up John Bluthal as real-life Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse.
Surprisingly for a Coen Brothers movie, there appears to be very little subtext here. This is not as weighty a movie as No Country For Old Men or Fargo, nor does it even have the substance of relatively frothy movies such as Raising Arizona or O Brother Where Art Thou? But it's still worth seeing. It also makes an interesting pair with this year's Trumbo, since where Trumbo lionizes the Communist-leaning screenwriters of the 1950s, Hail, Caesar! gives them a good kicking.