Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill
Rated PG-13 for Some Suggestive Content and Smoking
Imagine, if you will, "Entourage," set in the 1950's and directed by the notoriously offbeat Coen Brothers, and you'll have some idea of what "Hail, Caesar!" offers. Sadly, the film comes nowhere near achieving its potential. It's not funny, and more often than not, dull.
Eddie Mannix (Brolin) is a fixer for Capitol Pictures. Whenever there's a scandal or a problem on the set, he's there to "fix it" (ironically, his co-star George Clooney played a similar role in the overrated "Michael Clayton"). Today is not going well for Eddie. The star of the studio's biggest picture, "Hail, Caesar!", Baird Whitlock (Clooney), has just been kidnapped. The studio's sweetheart, DeeAnna Moran (Johansson), is unmarried and knocked up. And his newest matinee idol, Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich) is starring in a dramatic role for auteur Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes), but has zero talent. And where there's Hollywood, there's news and gossip, and that leads to the Thacker sisters (Swinton in a dual role) sniveling about. As if that weren't enough, Eddie has an offer to run Lockheed Martin.
The Coens have always been risk-taking directors, refusing to be pegged in a singular style or genre. "Fargo," "No Country for Old Men," "O Brother Where Art Thou?," "True Grit," and "Raising Arizona" are some of their most famous movies. Actually, it's about half their resume. There's no denying they have talent, but this is a serious letdown for them. The plot is aimless and the film as a whole feels too long.
The Coens are in demand in Hollywood by just about everyone. They're talented and they can lead to Oscar gold. As usual, they've selected an eclectic cast, but of them, the only one with a substantial amount of screen time is Josh Brolin. There's not much to his character, but he does an excellent job of mimicking the New York/Hollywood accent that so many of the Golden Age men used.
There are essentially five subplots that compromise one 24 hour period. The funniest one is with Alden Ehrenreich as the stud without a clue. What's funny is that Hobie wants to do well, he just can't. It doesn't lessen the director's irritation at him, however. The most energetic one is a song-and-dance routine with Channing Tatum aping Gene Kelly. Who knew the guy could sing? Unfortunately this sequence lasts little more than a minute or two, so it's probably best seen on YouTube. The lamest bits are when Baird becomes unwittingly hooked up with communists. It's really a one-joke concept and not an especially funny one. Clooney gives it his all, but ultimately there's no saving it. The rest of the cast, including a brassy Scarlett Johansson, appear in what barely amount to cameos.
I like the Coen Brothers very much. But there's no denying that this is one trip worth skipping.