Hail, Caesar! drops us in the middle of a post-war Hollywood studio, Capitol Pictures, where Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a studio fixer tasked with managing the conduct and perception of the studio’s stars and starlets. One of the biggest stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), gets kidnapped by a group of disgruntled communist screenwriters. Whitlock’s is knocked out for the majority of this, only to awaken in the midst of their philosophic and economic debating, easily swaying him to become communist-leaning himself. The group demands that Mannix pays a $100,000 ransom for the return of Whitlock, which is promptly pays. However, retrieving Whitlock, without raising suspicion from the public and tabloid reporters, is another story.
The Coen brothers aren’t for everyone, but nonetheless, I personally found Hail, Caesar! to be a riotous, good time. Hollywood’s Golden Age is the perfect backdrop, as the duo both respectively pay tribute and poke fun of the era. As we follow Mannix from set to set, you are transported from one world to another: biblical epics, synchronized swimming mermaids, a cowboy with over-the-top gunslinging antics, and, my favorite, a group of sailors dancing and singing in a saloon before shipping out to sea. (Seriously, it’s Channing Tatum in the role I never knew I wanted, but will leave you dying of laughter from its absurdity that feels so right).
The biggest problem with Hail, Caesar! was how underutilized some of the characters were, particularly Scarlett Johansson’s character, DeeAnna Moran. She was introduced at very beginning, making you think she would be of some importance, but her subplot dropped off for the majority of the film only to resurface later in a hasty attempt to wrap the film up. There are a few subplots and characters that do this, making one wonder if the Coen brothers just had too many ideas for one film.
Hail, Caesar! isn’t the best movie ever, but I sure did have a great time watching it in the theater. It’s able to both expertly pay homage to and poke fun at this Hollywood time, but like many films from that era, it’s far from a masterpiece.