4th – 17th March, DCA
The Coen Brothers return with another beautifully set and engrossing piece of cinematography to add to their long list of triumphs. The staple quirky wit that The Coens are known for comes through perfectly; the direction and dialogue is riddled with “inadvertently” satisfying comedy that makes for a truly enjoyable cinematic experience about cinematic experiences.
Hail, Caesar! is centred around Hollywood and its star system, allowing the audience an insight into the complex and grandiose culture through the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the “Fixer”. Overseeing the entire array of productions for Capitol Pictures, Mannix is an intriguing character who oscillates between the twin struggles of managing the company’s range of stars and that of being a responsible father to his family, though often he finds these roles reversed. Mannix provides a complex character who spirals between the ruthless, star-slapping businessman we see on sets and backstage to a broken down father and man of God confessing his daily sins in the church confessional. He traverses his day-to-day life on the dictate of his wristwatch, never truly on schedule. But, with a new job offer on the table, the prospect of a regular day is within close grasp; all Mannix has to do is retain his grip on Hollywood, balancing family and the famous.
The narrative opens during the filming of the next big blockbuster for Capitol Pictures, shortly before their somewhat dim-witted but amusing star Baird Witlock (George Clooney) is drugged and kidnapped by a group known as “The Future”. The narrative, however, cannot be reduced into a mere rescue mission for a Hollywood star as it becomes so much more than that, the kidnapping is one of several plotlines that allows the audience to indulge themselves in events affecting Eddie’s manic life.
The casting of Hail, Caesar! is nothing short of mesmerizing; the star studded ensemble really helps to push the celebrity stardom that emanates through their characters and harness this overwhelming Hollywood atmosphere. There wasn’t a single performance that was lacking. If anything, each individual became their own and surpassed my expectations even in limited roles. A real surprise was Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Hobie Doyle. A typical Western staple-star whose country singing and upcoming stardom intrigues Mannix, leading him to be cast in sophisticated director Laurence Laurentz’s period drama, miles out of Doyle’s comfort zone in a calculated play of broadening his horizons for the Capitol Pictures.. This leads to Ehrenreich’s surprisingly larger role within the narrative, a surprise which is not at all unwelcome. Hobie Doyle really steals the audience’s hearts with his innocent demeanour and really comes across as the purest of the characters in Hail, Caesar! I found myself wanting to see more and more of Doyle as the film progressed and I feel other viewers felt and will feel similarly.
Hail, Caesar! is a true triumph, The Coen Brothers return in another successful cinematic endeavour, pushing the boundaries in exploring the world of Hollywood as well as the looming real threat and fear of Communism to filmmaking in the early 1950s. If you go into this film expecting a perfectly neat, tidy and ultimately conclusive narrative you will likely be disappointed, but if you are familiar with The Coen Brothers’ work and seek a cinematic experience you will be thrilled. The array of converging sub-plots, each led by a different star within the film’s Hollywood setting, allows the fast-paced and constantly moving world of filmmaking to truly come alive and keep the audience hooked. From nautical dance troupes to the traditional musical, The Coen Brothers give the audience a small taste of each realm of Mannix’s world and leave them hungry for more.