REVIEW: Hail, Caesar!

A fun romp.

Hail, Caesar! is the latest movie from the Cohen Brothers, who are among my favorite film makers. Their last movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, is as far as I’m concerned a masterpiece and among their best work. The two movies they made before that, True Grit and A Serious Man are also two movies I love. (A Serious Man is probably their most underrated movie). It’s until you get to Burn After Reading that you get a movie I wasn’t really a fan of. There’s a silly irreverence there that just doesn’t hit me like those other movies, and I mostly mention it because Hail, Caesar! Is much closer to that tone than the other movies I mentioned.

So I did actually go into this with some trepidation, and that trepidation wasn’t entirely unfounded. I do like this movie, but I’m not in love with it, and it hasn’t really stuck with me. There are plenty of funny moments and I still remember all of it, but very little of it means anything to me.

So what is this movie anyway? It’s the Cohen’s love letter to the old school 50s studio cinema, although because it’s the Cohen brothers it’s making fun of it as much as it is celebrating it.

My favorite scene involves the main character, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) talking to a room of Rabbi and Priests about the studio’s latest big picture Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ because he wants to make sure the movie’s depiction of Jesus is fair and not offensive on religious grounds. I’m not just gonna run through the jokes, but it’s both really funny and kind of highlights my problem with the movie as a whole. That scene is great, but it’s also very reminiscent of A Serious Man. It just made me wish that I was watching that movie instead.

This movie is good, but it’s not comparable to the Cohen Brother’s best work. There are lots of funny gags, and there are a lot of great actors who get one or two scenes and just kill it. But it’s a very vignette heavy movie, and never took full shape in a way that grabbed me. Mannix is the glue here, holding together both the movie and the movie studio he works for, but I just don’t share that Cohen’s affection for him. He’s kinda boring. For me, it’s actually the character of Hobie Doyle (Played by Alden Ehrenreich) that saves the movie. He’s got the earnest charm the movie needs.

There are also extended tributes to movies of old, including a synchronized swimming sequence featuring Scarlett Johansson and a tap dancing musical sequence featuring Channing Tatum. Those sequences are kinda long and don’t really do anything for me, but I appreciate their spirit. This is a movie made by people who clearly had fun making it, and that kinda rubs off even in the parts that don’t quite work for me.

This is a weird movie.

This isn’t a great film, but it’s good and it’s fun.