The Coen brothers tell good stories. Whether it be “No Country for Old Men”, “Fargo”, “Burn After Reading”, “True Grit” or any of their other works, it doesn’t pound you over the head with themes or dumbs down its plot to accommodate the audience: they simply tell good stories in their own way.
In their latest feature, “Hail, Caesar”, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood fixer dealing with conflicting emotions about leaving Hollywood. During a production shoot of the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar”, his star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious organization that calls itself “the future.” Over the next 24 hours, he tries to get Whitlock back, deal with a never-ending parade of issues, and resolve his qualms about decency in his life.
The cast is a long list of Hollywood stars in and of itself, including Frances McDormand, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The fact that real-life Hollywood stars are caricaturing their counterparts of the 1950s adds to the flavor of the film. Each character is lost in some form or another, all trying to find their way; through religion, communism, love, politics, smoking. What unites them is their idealistic vision of cinema, the promise of happy endings and creating movie magic.
There are so many characters and so much going on that sometimes it is hard to keep focus on what is happening, but the Coens have always been able to utilize the idiosyncrasies in their characters to make sure that even with limited screentime, they are still memorable and relatable. If the movie were a little bit longer and some of the characters were able to be fleshed out just a little bit more, it would really aid the pacing and emotional impact.
Though decidedly one of their “lesser” works because of its rambliness and overstuffed plot, “Hail, Caesar” is still a blast, a lesser work from the Coens equal to superior work from most other filmmakers.