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Review

“Hail, Caesar!” evokes nostalgia for old Hollywood

February 10, 2016

The Coen brothers take us to a far off place that was as chaotic as it was beautiful in the Golden Age of Hollywood with “Hail, Caesar!,” a film that is filled with as good callbacks as it does actors.

A love letter to the old days when both beauty and garbage was being produced at once by studios, the film covers the life of real person Eddie Mannix, whose job it was back during his time in Hollywood to cover up the embarrassing details of actors’ lives.

Eddie, played by Josh Brolin, finds himself on the trail of an actor gone missing in Hollywood, and it just happens to be Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), his studious biggest star.

As more things begin to disassemble piece by piece, whether it is a cowboy actor who can’t act anything else, or an actress who is facing a public image problem with a child and no father, Mannix must go through the thick of it just to keep Hollywood from crumbling all in just one day.

For a premise like this, the Coen brothers manage to hit all of the common tropes that were found in 1950’s Hollywood at the time, such as the commonality of westerns and epic films, the seediness that occurred behind the scenes, and the fear of communism felt by many at the time.

Some of this is reflected in the various segments of the film, from large synchronized swimming scenes to a musical moment with sailors, it all comes across as true, genuine Hollywood, and the Coen brothers are to be commended for getting down the feel and size of productions at the time.

However, some of those scenes can also trail on and segment the film up quite a bit with those long, fantastic moments and end up making the story a little choppy. In fact, one criticism that can be given to this film is that it can feel like things don’t flow well from scene to scene.

This results in the film feeling unsatisfying in regards to entertainment value but still remaining a treasure to those who honor the Golden Age; which is sad to say because the film is quite well cast.

Josh Brolin does a fine job as Mannis, a man who is both frustrated with his clients and loves his job, and even George Clooney as Baird Whitlock, a man who never seems to grasp the immensity of his situation of being kidnapped by some very benign men.

All the actors play their parts very well and do a fine job portraying the actor tropes of the time. They even manage to get a few laughs out here and there. One scene involving an actor flubbing his lines constantly got a chuckle out of me.

Despite some laughs, the film felt scattershot in some of its humor. I can appreciate that some of it comes from characters alone and odd situations that occur from time to time, but I never felt fully satisfied, even though this is meant to be a comedy.

I think one can appreciate how well the Coen brothers are honoring how hilariously inept running the big film studios of the time was and how despite all the crookedness that may have occurred we still turned out some good stuff every now and then, but I feel as though some audiences may walk away a little disappointed, especially with two big names writing and directing this picture.

“Hail, Caesar!” is not for everyone, but it may please some out there who are fascinated by the old days of picture making and how seedy and oftentimes criminal it could be to work in films those days.