Hail, Caesar! | Review

The Coen brothers are masters of their unique version of the trade, oddball like deadpan comedy that occasionally borders on insane and oft-times farcical. Movies such as THE BIG LEBOWSKI, OH BROTHER WHERE ARE THOU?, FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and many others are some of the best comedies of all time. HAIL, CAESAR! is sadly not. The Coen brothers have brought us another attempt at period comedy that falls on its ass due to no point and no cohesion in a very weak screenplay that looks exceptional and is filled with an occasional brilliant skit scenes with remarkable actors. It is out now from the fine folks at Universal Pictures Australia, is rated PG and runs for 106mins.


Hail, Caesar! Movie poster image



HAIL, CAESAR! is a day in the life snapshot of old-school, post-war Hollywood. It follows the only “normal” character, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), Mannix was a real, true, MGM studio press fixer from that era, he is a troubled man, looking at a change in career and dealing with too many crazy people and the excesses of the time for the people in the industry. It is his job to ensure the “image” of the stars from his studio and manage their careers. Cover up pregnancies, hide alcoholism, make hideous actors appear in films and try and get them to look good and keep the media away from fact. Mannix is a master at his job but should really take that career change.


Hail, Caesar! movie image


The good of this movie is the smaller roles, but for me this was also the letdown as the best performers are so underused and are more skit comic reliefs. The bad of the movie is that the film is just made up of skit character performances in a film that really has no purpose besides showing a comical look into the day in the life of this one crazy studio at the time. While the skits themselves are comical they did little to make me laugh. It felt like walking through a Hollywood zoo from the era and each cage gives us another nutcase.

The bit players are Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes and Frances McDormand and every one of their roles is sublime, I wanted entire movies on their performances, but alas we got about five minutes each.

This is hand’s down the best performance of Tatum’s carer but it is less than ten minutes long, his dance number is a true time capture from the era, I wanted it as a stage play, I wanted to stand and clap and his over the top camp Hollywood leading man persona made me smile, we truly need a feature film on his character!


Hail, Caesar! movie image


Scarlett nailed the beauty queen actress hiding a secret and temper and the downside, again, probably about five minutes of screen time. Same goes Frances McDormand as the brilliant projectionist in the dark room who nearly chokes on her scarf, I did laugh at her scene, about two minutes screen-time.

The one scene I did laugh a lot at was a scene between Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) as the pompous English director used to working with the greats who has to contend with the horse riding cowboy actor who can hardly string a sentence together. Fiennes’ dialogue with Alden Ehrenreich (playing Hobie Doyle) over a line for his scene was incredible cinematic gold and the way Laurentz treats Doyle had me in stitches.

And then there was Tilda, my goddess, playing two journalists, twins who work for different competing publications and the confusion they create is as hysterical as Laurence Laurentz’s name play.

Oddly, George Clooney did little for me in his role, he is labelled as the lead in the film, but his role was less interesting than all the others put together, he is a stupid alcoholic partying himbo that is kidnapped by the writers of the Hollywood industry and eventually embraces communism, in true Coen style.


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And all of these skits are grand, the cinematic visuals are grand in capturing the time and the theatricality of it all. I praise the look of the film and the acting but to me it was like a HUGE budget skit show with the independent scenes doing little for the movie as a whole, nothing ties it together besides them working for a studio, them trying to carry an entire fun poke at Hollywood, and then the film ends. HAIL, CAESAR! is an in-joke for studios and players in Hollywood to have a laugh about, but for mostly the rest of us, a valium on film that looks good.

Most of the better scenes of the film are in the trailer and to be perfectly honest, it was the first film in about five years I considered walking out of purely because it was wasting my time. For me, the worst film I have seen from the Coen Brothers, time to watch THE BIG LEBOWSKI or FARGO again to restore my faith.


2 and a Half Pops



 is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.