Friday, November 25, 2016

Movie Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail, Caesar! (2016) written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a fixer at Capitol Pictures in the 1950s. His job is to make sure operations run smoothly at the studio, mostly by fixing problems that come up. Like the singing cowboy who can't quite act in a sophisticated melodrama and is driving the director crazy; the swimming star who is pregnant and unmarried; the big star (George Clooney) who is kidnapped off the set of the studio's big Biblical epic. The epic's script has already gone through the theological wringer of a rabbi, an Orthodox priest, a Protestant minister, and a Catholic priest (which is a pretty funny scene). Eddie is a Catholic and struggles with his sins and with an offer from Lockheed for a better paying, fewer hours job.

Both the characters in the movie and the movie itself vacillate between earnestness and frivolity. It comes off as the film makers both admiring and poking fun at the Golden Age of Hollywood. The problem is they have too much admiration to have the sharp and biting satire I was expecting. The lighter tone would be okay if there was more comedy or the comedy was funnier. A lot of jokes have too much set up, leading viewers to guess the punch line long before it's actually delivered on screen.

I did like the theme of the importance and value of work. Eddie is considering the offer from Lockheed because the company does serious business and he can have more home life and deal with more rational people than the Hollywood set. But there is value in the work he does at the studio, it isn't completely frivolous. There's an extended subplot with a sort of Hollywood communist think tank (though they seem to have jumbled up Locke, Hegel, and Marx, with more emphasis on jumble than on philosophy) which also reflects on the value of work. But again, the film makers can't seem to decide whether to take it seriously or not and the sequence comes off as muddled filler that helps to tie up loose ends of the plot.

I wouldn't say this is a bad movie, there are plenty of entertaining bits. But the movie has a lot of potential that never gets actualized, so it winds up disappointing. If taken as pure fluff, it's a fine film. But is that really what they were going for?

No comments:

Post a Comment