Review: 'Hail, Caesar!' a satire that doesn't come together

HAIL, CAESAR!: 3 STARS

Coen Brothers fans will recognize the backdrop of "Hail, Caesar!," the new screwball comedy from the prolific siblings.

See Full Article

Fifteen years ago they doomed screenwriter Barton Fink (John Turturro) to a hellish stint fighting writer’s block at Capitol Studios. This time around the fictional studio is the setting for one day in the life of a Hollywood fixer.

James Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a shady figure from Tinseltown’s Golden Age. Loosely based on the legendary MGM "producer" of the same name, he solves star’s problems, using his influence to keep some of the most notorious crimes and scandals on the LAPD blotter under wraps. He is, an associate says, a babysitter to "oddballs and misfits."

As Capitol’s "Head of Physical Production" he’s about to have the busiest day of his career when an up-and-coming starlet is caught in a compromising "French postcard situation" while his leading lady, DeeAnna Moran’s (an Esther Williams-esque Scarlett Johansson), is about to have an out-of-wedlock baby.

Hail, Caesar film review

"Is there any way she can adopt her own child?" he wonders.

If that wasn’t enough Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the studio’s biggest star, is drugged and kidnapped from the set of his sword-and-sandal epic Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ.

"This is bad!" exclaims actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). "Bad for movie stars everywhere."

The action revolves around Brolin’s character, but this is truly an ensemble piece made up of many moving parts. Maybe too many.

"Hail, Caesar!" is a buoyant movie and when it is firing on all cylinders it can only be described as delightful. Clooney’s stagey reaction to meeting Jesus in the movie-within-the-movie—"Squint against the grandeur!"—and Ralph Fiennes as the marvellously named director Laurence Laurentz giving southern hick Hobie an on-set lesson in elocution—"Would that it were so simple."—are a slices of comedic heaven.

An editing mishap involving Frances McDormand, a scarf and a cigarette and Johansson’s hard-boiled dame accent are great character pieces while Channing Tatum channels Gene Kelly in an athletic tour-de-force dance number called "No Dames." Add to that a breakout performance from Ehrenreich and the wonky Coen sensibility and you have a movie with much to admire.

It’s the other stuff, the connective tissue, that doesn’t hold up. In "Hail, Caesar!" the Coens seem more interested in set pieces than story.

Hail Caesar film review

In between inspired bits—see above—the movie meanders looking for Mannix to bind it together. Brolin certainly looks the part of a 1950s tough guy but he is a device more than a character. His job is to connect the various story threads but he gets lost between the subplots. From communism to wayward movie stars to nosy twin gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton) and manufactured romances the Coens leave no old Hollywood stone unturned.

"Hail, Caesar!" doesn’t quite come together as a fully formed movie but it does play as a love letter to the cinema.

It's a satirical portrait of Hollywood’s Golden Age and the underlying message about the importance of movies should appeal to cinephiles but may have less impact on casual viewers.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • 'Roseanne' revival planned

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    A popular sitcom from the 1990s is set to return with members of its original cast. According to Deadline, a revival of Roseanne is in the works with focal members of the original cast – including Roseanne Barr, John Goodman and Sara Gilbert – signed on to reprise their roles. Source
  • Making new album an emotional rollercoaster for Mary J. Blige

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Mary J. Blige may be spitting fireball lyrics about her soon-to-be ex-husband on her new album, but the songs didn't start from a place of anger and hate. It began with hope. Source
  • 'American Gods' star Ian McShane says show perfect for our time

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Over the phone from the U.K., Ian McShane is apologetic about the time of our interview – it being 6 a.m. EDT. He knows all about time-zones and being up in the early morning in Toronto. He followed Premier League football with his joined-at-the-hip American Gods co-star and fellow Manchester United fan Ricky Whittle while filming the series there. Source
  • 'Not all banjoes and fiddles': Eclectic East Coast musicians find fame abroad, struggle at home

    Entertainment CBC News
    The traditional music industry is playing "catch up" when it comes to recognizing electronic music, according to some artists who have decided to create a new Maritime-wide music association to support urban artists. Long-time DJ and music producer Brian Pelrine is part of the group behind the project, which will launch June 3. Source
  • Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch renew 'Big Bang Theory' contracts

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch have reportedly finalized their contract deals to appear in seasons 11 and 12 of hit TV show The Big Bang Theory. The comedy series was renewed for two additional seasons last month, weeks after main castmembers Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, and Kunal Nayyar inked their new two-year contracts, and Bialik and Rauch have now joined them. Source
  • MasterChef Canada's Aaron Polsky is picking Trevor to win it all

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    MasterChef Canada’s Aaron Polsky was sent home this week after his vegetarian tagine failed to impress the judges. But that wasn’t the hardest loss he took while competing in the MasterChef Canada kitchen. Losing the Restaurant Takeover in Chef Michael Bonacini’s north Toronto landmark Auberge du Pommier earlier in the episode stung the worst. Source
  • 'Star Trek: Discovery' adds several Canadian actors

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO - Several Canadians have joined the cast of the Toronto-shot series "Star Trek: Discovery." Rekha Sharma of Vancouver will play Commander Landry, the security officer of the Starship Discovery. Toronto's Kenneth Mitchell has been cast as Kol, a commanding officer in the Klingon Empire. Source
  • Judges seal warrants related to arrest of 'Bachelor' star

    Entertainment CTV News
    IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Applications for warrants that allowed police to arrest "The Bachelor" star Chris Soules after a fatal crash and to obtain his blood and urine samples will be sealed indefinitely under rulings issued Friday. Source
  • 'Casting JonBenet' review: Reliving a tabloid sensation

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Yesterday’s media circus is today’s documentary. It has, recently, seemed like all the stories that once dominated our tabloids are now cramming our screens. O.J. Simpson, Anthony Weiner, Amanda Knox. It’s as though we’re haunted by the ghost of nightly-news past. Source
  • Fyre Festival postponed after reports of Hunger Games-like conditions emerge

    Entertainment CBC News
    The inaugural Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, a two-week music event promoted by celebrities including supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski, was postponed Friday after attendees reported dilapidated accommodations, and top-billed performers pulled out. The Coachella-like festival, set to run this weekend and next weekend on the Exuma Islands, was co-organized by rapper Ja Rule. Source