REVIEW: Coens’ ‘Hail Caesar’ Is A Fun Love Letter To Old Hollywood

George Clooney plays Baird Whitlock in “Hail, Caesar!,” the latest dramedy from writers/directors The Coen Brothers. Whitlock is a star Hollywood actor and is working on the set of a 1950s Hollywood mega production for the studio Capitol Pictures. After shooting one of the scenes for the picture, though, Whitlock is drugged and kidnapped.

That’s where the real star of the film enters, Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. Mannix is the head of production at Capitol and manages everything that goes on, whether it be angry directors or the social life of the contracted actors. Mannix is seemingly everywhere and if he didn’t seem overworked before, the kidnapping puts him over the top.

As most Coen Bros. movies go, “Hail Caesar!” doesn’t play by the conventional rules and they have once again made a rather oddball comedy. While this does provide for some solid laughs, especially directed toward the industry, it does make the movie a bit too disjointed in how it handles the main conflict.

Furthermore, while Mannix’s arc as a character does make for a few compelling scenes, the film still doesn’t carry the weight and substance that the Coen Brothers’ last phenomenal movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” did.

With that said the movie does shine bright as a love letter to classic 50s Hollywood. From the studios, to the effects and even the way film used to be edited. The appreciation from the Coens is on full display and this aspect truly makes for an enjoyable picture.

As for the acting, the one who steals the show is Brolin. He owns every scene he’s on with his commanding tone as the studio head. Right from the get go, he gets the point across that when his character says something, everybody listens.

The rest of the cast is talented for sure, and each one gets their time to deliver some solid lines, but nothing really beyond that. Clooney’s character, for example, seems a bit wasted and I certainly would have liked to have seen him featured more.

Besides Brolin’s, the best character was likely the western star Hobie Doyle played by Alden Ehrenreich. While the character wasn’t the best actor he had plenty of charm to get by in Hollywood and Ehrenreich sells it.

As an appreciation of days gone by in Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar” is enjoyable. However, it isn’t as memorable as other Coen brother movies have held in years past. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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