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Hail, Caesar! (2016) Reviewed By Jay

United States, 25 December 2015


Jay´s Review

This one has been on my must-see list for months! It has a cast to die for, writers and directors I admire, and the plot is irresistible (I love stories about show business)!

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (I've been a fan all the way back to 1984's "Blood Simple") and set in 1950s Hollywood, we watch a movie studio fixer try to keep four movies on track, on budget, and on time. Problem is, a star has disappeared ....and there is a casting problem ...and there is an unexpected pregnancy ...and...

Here is that cast to die for:

  • * Josh Brolin ("Sicario") Eddie Mannix is the fixer but some things are tough to fix! Where will he find the money for the ransom and how will he protect the reputation of an unmarried, pregnant star? Is he going to accept that tempting job offer from Lockheed? Brolin is convincing as an honorable, hard-working man who wants to do the right thing.
  • * Ralph Fiennes ("Spectre") Laurence Lorenz is a much-respected director. He has been assigned a new star for his latest high-status production and now he needs it fixed! Fiennes does a slow burn sooo well.
  • * Alden Ehrenreich ("Blue Jasmine") Hobie Doyle is Columbia Studio's resident singing cowboy. Re-assigning him to a costume drama is complicated... Ehrenreich is a terrific talent. His straight shooter sings, strums the guitar, does rope tricks and innocently frustrates Ralph Fiennes' director.
  • * Scarlett Johansson ("The Avengers") DeeAnna Moran is the studio's mermaid, she stars in lovely synchronized water ballets, but now she is in a real pickle: Can Eddie fix this one? Bad publicity would destroy her (and hurt the studio). Johannson is a hoot!
  • * George Clooney ("Tomorrowland") Superstar Baird Whitlock has gone to ground. No one on the set of "Hail Caesar, a Tale of Christ's Life" knows if he's having an existential crisis or is drinking again. Now it looks like he's being held for ransom by a group of Communists. Clooney has never been funnier and he wears a Roman Centurion's uniform from beginning to end. Nice legs...
  • * Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike") Burt Gurney is the go-to guy for studio musicals. He sings, he dances, he.... Oh, you know... But there is more to him than meets the eye.
  • * Jonah Hill ("Moneyball") is Joseph Silverman, a stony-faced fellow you can rely on. 
  • * Tilda Swinton ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") is gossip columnist Thora Thackerand her gossip columnist sister Thessaly. Each dame is hot on the trail of her own scoop. I have enjoyed Swinton's recent move to comedies; she has a real flair.
  • * Frances McDormand ("Olive Kitteridge") is hilarious as chain-smoking film editor C.C. Calhoon.
  • * Many others are worthy of note, but space does not permit. LOVED the fixer's assistant, the Carmen Miranda type, the kidnappers (and their dog), and the submarine. Yeah, I said submarine.

This frantic comedy captures the phony morality of 1950s Hollywood: Every marriage is made in heaven and all single women are saints. It also captures the zeal of those gossip doyennes: They rule the press, control the public's perception of the stars and battle each other for every scoop and exposé!  

Rated PG-13, we can expect a smattering of profanity and implied promiscuity, but no F bombs or sweaty bodies; we get to peek behind the curtain of four genre productions: a drama, a western, a water ballet, and a tap-dancing musical. It was simpler times, e.g., our hero goes to Confession when he sneaks a cigarette after he had promised...; the kidnappers are what I see as an anti-Trumbo bunch, these guys are Hollywood screenwriters who are active, working Communists. Their philosophical discussions are a stitch and one elderly guy thinks they have kidnapped Clark Gable!

Don't miss this one.

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