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

  • Judge withholds ruling on Meek Mill's request for new trial

    Entertainment CTV News
    Rapper Meek Mill speaks outside the Philadelphia Criminal Justice in Center City, Pa., on Monday, June 18, 2018, as he attends a hearing to determine whether he should get a new trial in his decade-old gun and drug convictions. Source
  • Telefilm says gender gap remains for big-budget films

    Entertainment CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Telefilm Canada says there remains "a significant" gender gap in the big-budget films it backs. But statistics released Monday suggest the federal agency is well on its way to achieving its goal of gender parity in key film roles by 2020. Source
  • Just For Laughs production company promotes COO Bruce Hills to president

    Entertainment CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Just For Laughs Group has appointed a familiar face to oversee operations going forward, tapping a longtime executive as president on Monday. Bruce Hills, who had served as chief operating officer for the Montreal-based company for the past 19 years, enters the new job immediately. Source
  • Cookies for Khloe: Manitoba cookie company gets custom Kardashian order

    Entertainment CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- A Manitoba cookie company is getting praise from Khloe Kardashian for custom creations featuring her daughter True. The famous Kardashian posted a photo of the custom-order cookies made by Winnipeg's Scientific Sweets on Instagram. Source
  • Flashing lights in 'Incredibles 2' prompt warnings for people at risk of seizures

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Cineplex theatres showing "Incredibles 2" have posted health-related warnings to moviegoers about Disney's animated feature, which opened on the weekend. Cineplex spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange says the theatres posted warnings about scenes containing flashing lights that could trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy. Source
  • Private jet once owned by Elvis Presley for sale - again

    Entertainment CTV News
    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A private jet once owned by Elvis Presley that has sat on a runway in New Mexico for nearly four decades is back on the auction block. The online auction site IronPlanet announced this week that the plane with red velvet seats had returned the market after its current owner bought it last year for $430,000. Source
  • Kate Spade's funeral to be held in birthplace of Kansas City

    Entertainment CTV News
    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A funeral will be held for fashion designer Kate Spade this week in Kansas City, where she was born. The Kansas City Star reports that services for Spade are planned for 3 p.m. Source
  • Michael Jackson's elephant escapes enclosure at Florida zoo

    Entertainment CTV News
    This 2017 photo provided by the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden shows Ali, a bull elephant that once lived at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch briefly escaped its enclosure on Sunday, June 17, 2018, at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla. Source
  • Artist buried for three days under busy Australian road

    Entertainment CTV News
    An artist has emerged from three days entombed in a steel box under a busy Australian road in a performance billed as a tribute to victims of totalitarian violence. Mike Parr, 73, fasted during his time underground, with oxygen pumped into the 1.7-metre by 2.2-metre container to keep him alive as traffic drove on overhead. Source
  • Roll out the barrels: Christo artwork floats on London lake

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON - The ducks, geese and hardy cold-water swimmers in London's Hyde Park have a new neighbour: a monumental floating structure made from 7,506 stacked barrels colored bright red, mauve and blue. "The London Mastaba" is the latest work by artist Christo, who has previously wrapped Berlin's Reichstag in silver fabric and festooned New York's Central Park with thousands of saffron-colored cloth "gates. Source