“Hail Caesar!” Movie Review

It’s probably the funniest movie on economic philosophy Holly wood has to offer. This offbeat comedy-drama written and directed by the Coen Brothers was released last week on February 5th, 2015, since then grossing less than $20 million at the box office. Though it’s one of the lowest grossing films in their catalog, it’s still an interesting experience, and a great start to what seems likely to be an interesting year for movies. Set in the 1950’s, Hail Caesar follows a variety of secondary characters and subplots in Hollywood, but at the center, George Clooney plays narcissistic Hollywood superstar Baird Whitlock who is captured and educated by a cantankerous group of Communists who want to use the studio as a tool of capitalism for their plan. Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” who tries to cover up the mistakes and scandals surrounding big figures in Hollywood, works to try and get Whitlock back to the studio so they can finish production on the highly anticipated epic drama, Hail Caesar! This film actually bears many similarities to previous films by the Coen Brothers in both theme and style. There are plenty of sly Biblical references along with an underlying feeling of both pessimism and philosophy. One of the best and funniest scenes is when Mannix is sitting at a conference table to discuss the proper interpretation of Jesus Christ with a Rabbi, a couple of priests, and an Imam. As Christ plays a large role in Hail Caesar!, they break out into a full blown argument regarding both Jesus and how God treats humanity. When Whitlock is held captive by the Communists in their rather lovely beach house, they educate him about the philosophy of man’s capability for strength and intelligence. There are an abundance of other quirky characters with unique personalities. The standout has to be the remarkably versatile Tilda Swinton taking on the role of twin sisters, both of whom serve as Hollywood gossip columnists. Despite that, there are certainly a few story elements that could have easily been cut out of the final product, with a subplot about Scarlett Johansson’s illegitimate child adoption feeling particularly shoehorned throughout the movie. It just feels like filler and falters the light pacing. The true highlight of Hail Caesar is its large ensemble cast, all of whom contribute something new and hilarious to the experience. Though some celebrities like Jonah Hill and Ralph Fiennes are more like cameos, Alden Ehrenreich, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, and yet another surprising comedic turn for Channing Tatum are fine compliments to the sharp, hilarious-written script. And watching the iconic actor George Clooney bumble around in a Roman-era movie costume is so consistently amusing. Hail Caesar may not reach the levels of brilliance from previous Coen Brothers films, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t an engaging and insightful love-letter to the Golden Age of Cinema, even as far as being shot on film. And yes, it is hard to say “Would if t’were so simple.”

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