For Reel

Hail, Caesar! (2016)
February 7, 2016, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Joel & Ethan Coen
2.5 Stars
Hail, Caesar!With the oddly dissonant voice-over narration that begins Hail, Caesar!, the Coen brothers immediately lay their cards on the table by drawing attention to the film’s very movieness–that is, before one can get invested in the “realism” of the filmic world, the falsity of the whole endeavor is underlined. It’s probably the appropriate way of handling a story about classic Hollywood, a mythos typified by bombastic executives, eccentric stars, and nosy gossip columnists. A typical source of comedy in the film involves the barely visible distinction between where the filmmaking ends and reality begins. An Esther Williams knockoff (Scarlett Johansson) interrupts a water ballet by complaining about her “fish ass”, a drawing room comedy is desecrated by the participation of a star more accustomed to Western fare (Alden Ehrenreich). More complicated is an early scene in which a pair of extras in a biblical epic drug the star (George Clooney). While viewers of the film might initially assume that this action is occurring within the reality of the film-within-a-film, the drugging is actually authentic. However, if it seems like the Coen brothers can do anything, watch the way they handle a scene in which a man drops a briefcase so that he can catch his dog. It’s a lazy gag to begin with, but in the editing and camera placement, there is no sense of spatial continuity, which ultimately disrupts the action and destroys the joke’s timing. Just as disappointing is that Hail, Caesar! introduces a handful of ideas that it juggles about as tenuously as its protagonist, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). The issue of faith–which can be said to relate to religion, to the public’s belief in movie stars, to the belief in one’s work, and so on–seems muddled, a would-be connective tissue between filmmaking and existentialism that doesn’t quite land. There might be a great movie that takes 1950s Hollywood fears at face value (communism, homosexuals, unwed pregnancies) but this is not it.

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