April 03, 2016



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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HailCaesarThe Coens Go A Wandering In McCarthy Era Hollywood And Get Lost

The ever-streaky Joel and Ethan Coen commit a cinematic blunder with a would-be screwball comedy that has all the laughs you can count on one hand.

Lushly composed but disconnected set pieces play out in ‘50s era Hollywood backlot intrigue involving Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, a movie industry “fixer.”

Eddie Mannix is in charge of keeping big budget pictures on schedule and under budget. He also patches up potentially scandalous incidents involving wayward starlets before gossip columnists can get wind of their indiscretions. Mannix has the bearing of a cheesy private investigator who intentionally wears too much cologne. He marks his territory.


Brolin’s modulated performance is in keeping with the comedy’s restrained tone and the film’s lulling tempo but there’s nothing to sink your teeth into.

It says a lot about the film that its most engaging subplot involves cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). The ambitious but woefully unskilled Doyle is cast beyond his acting chops in a romantic period drama being directed by the esteemed British director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Ehrenreich steals what there is of a movie with abominable line readings drive Ralph Fiennes’s pleasantly articulate director to distraction. Still, the subplot doesn’t pay off. Neither do any of the film’s other narrative detours.


Even Coen-regular George Clooney gets cornered into mediocrity. Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, an A-list star who gets kidnapped away from the sword-and-sandal epic he’s currently working on by a group of blacklisted [communist sympathizing] screenwriters looking to abandon America. Think the Hollywood Ten — Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Ring Lardner Jr. etc.) The nerdy movie writers keep Baird sequestered inside a plush seaside house in Malibu, where he easily falls in with his captors' anti-capitalist ideologies, at least until another script comes along. 


The Coen’s bland use of political satire here is so inept that you can’t decipher what kind of point, if any, they are attempting to make about a [mostly] brave group of blacklisted writers who were sited for contempt of Congress, and lost their once flourishing careers for refusing to answer question about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party. 

“Hail Caesar!” falls into the same dustbin as other Coen Brother cinematic splats that include “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Ladykillers.” Simultaneously overworked and underdeveloped, here is an unfunny comedy that will leave audiences scratching their heads about the point of so much blind slapstick razzmatazz that goes nowhere. The movie is pretty to look at, and that's about it.

“That’s all folks.”

Rated PG-13. 106 mins. 

1 Star

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon


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