Thoughts On: Hail Caesar

For a film focused on the golden age of Hollywood, Hail Caesar eschews many of its standard conventions. That’s by no means a bad thing, as the Coen brothers latest release is one of 2016’s most affecting flicks.

Narrative

Hail Caesar isn’t a film that’s too concerned with plot. Sure, it has some semblance of one, with a Hollywood fixer (Josh Brolin) forced to resolve the abduction of one of the studio’s biggest stars (George Clooney), but as many critics have already said, the film is primarily a love letter to the golden age of cinema – specifically, 1950s Hollywood.

Plot aside, there are quite a few isolated gems here. Whether it’s Channing Tatum‘s wonderfully camp ‘No Dames’ musical vignette or Scarlett Johansson‘s visually delightful synchronised swimming sequence, there are many moments that will have you grinning like an idiot in appreciation of whatever nostalgic spectacle is being played out.

It’s just a shame that the stuff in between ends up feeling like filler. Would that it were so simple…

Direction

Tonally, Hail Caesar is hard to put a finger on. Zany, cooky, goofy are all adjectives that apply, yet it’s never specifically one of these things. And when it comes to thinking of a non Coen Brothers film that Hail Caesar resembles, Seven Psychopaths is the closest I can think of – even that comparison is a little off.

But apart from the film’s offbeat sensibility, what’s particularly striking is just how colourful it is. Even scenes that would ordinarily be cold and dark are imbued with a warm and vibrant hue – most notably, the submarine scene. Not only does this reflect just how vivid the vast majority of films were back then, but it also serves to show the playful fondness the Coen brothers have of vintage cinema.

Characters

There are so many big names here that it’s hard to keep track. But with the exception of Clooney and Brolin, very few are given that much screen time, with Jonah Hill making a brief appearance for just one scene. It’s not necessarily a gripe, though it would’ve been nice to see a little bit more of one or two characters.

Despite Hail Caesar’s all-star cast, though, its Alden Ehrenreich‘s Hobie Doyle who truly shines bright here. He is easily the film’s most charming character, a quality perfectly affirmed when he playfully wins over fellow moviestar Carlotta Valdez (and us), by turning a string of spaghetti into a miniature lasso. Also, I see what you did there, Coens…

In a few words…

While not for everybody, Hail Caesar is a charming and goofy homage to the golden age of cinema.

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