Review: “Hail, Caesar!” is Back to Bizarre for the Coen Brothers

Throughout their 31 years making films, Joel and Ethan Coen have created a reputation of being completely unpredictable with their choice of projects. However, with whatever they tackle, one thing is certain: high quality work ensures (yes, we’ve got love for The Ladykillers). The brothers’ latest feature, Hail, Caesar! is no exception to this rule.

Set Hollywood in the1950s Hail, Caesar! follows the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), an industry “fixer” who’s job entails maintaining the public image of the prestigious Capital Pictures. Trouble ensures when actors go missing, shoots go sour and fits are thrown, all in a day’s work on the studio lot.

After a shift to more serious-toned films with their past few projects (True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis, along with the films they’ve written, Unbroken (directed by Angelina Jolie) and Bridge of Spies (Spielberg)), the film finds the duo back to their much beloved realm of quirky adventures, seen in fan favourites such as Burn After ReadingFargo, and of course, The Big Lebowski. However, unlike the fan favourites mentioned above, this film fails to find its audience as engaged with its humour, as many of the jokes seemed to simply miss the masses. Despite this distinct disappointing factor, there was still lots to appreciate about the film.

Stylistically, Hail, Caesar! does an excellent job at emulating elements of popular films of the 1950s, particularly during the scenes in which Capital Pictures are screening one of their new features. There were clearly very conscious decisions to capture the rapidly evolving industry of cinema, one that was both growing in skill craft, as well as financial horizons, all while not forgetting to include the shifting ideologies of the world (i.e.: Rise of Communist movement, increasing attention towards celebrity gossip, etc.).

The acting in this film truly served as on of its strong suits. The Coen Brothers have this unique ability to bring together triumphant actors who although may seem too different from one another on paper, have an undeniable chemistry once on screen. From frequent collaborator George Clooney to relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, all of the performances in this film were incredibly well-executed and appropriately cast. Bonus points for the Wayne Knight cameo!

The fact that Hail, Caesar! is not one of the Coen Brothers’ greatest flicks surely says a lot about their strength as both writers and directors. Despite missing a few marks, the film is still a delight and still goes down as one of the better films currently in theatres — Oscar noms included. 7/10