Where to begin with a film such as Hail, Caesar!? This movie is so enigmatic, crazy and so Coen. The movie creates a world in itself that has to be seen to be believed.
The story begins with Capital Studio putting on Hail, Caesar!, their biggest production yet. The 1950s studio is bustling and booming with the intent of creating a masterpiece, when suddenly their biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped.
It sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The movie then throws the horrors of communism, double agents and many hilariously staged celebrity cameos at the audience.
All of the actors rise to the occasion in this film. Hilarity and insanity are their brushes, and they paint a fantastically twisted picture. The acting is superb, and many of the belly laughs that overtook the audience were due to the effort of these actors. If you accept their crazy world, your chuckles will transform into howls of glee. It’s a non-stop barrage of talent that shows its spark onscreen and lingers off-screen.
The film does not waste any time establishing its talent for cinematography. The first scene uses sharp and tight camera angles to utilize its unique 1950s backdrop. A few scenes are shot sideways to show the shear insanity of what is being portrayed. The controlled wide shots are beautiful to look at and fit the scenery very well. Storytelling through cinematography is not a new concept, but it is one that should be explored more often.
Like most Coen brothers movies, the story is, admittedly, an acquired taste. But if you do have this taste, then the flavor is succulent. It is overstuffed, but that’s what makes it fun. Hail, Caesar! contains the same trademark Coen storytelling style. It’s a wandering, seemingly aimless tale that has a slick, complicated message. Many audience members may not grasp the purpose of the story on the first showing. The creativity and ambiguity of this film plays directly into the madness on screen.
The most ambitious part of this movie is the underlying message. It can be seen as a nostalgic throwback to the movies we loved all those years ago. But the film’s real directive is to show the complete fickleness of the industry. In this movie, it clearly defines that these actors’ lives are completely controlled by the studio. They do what they are told for the good of the studio. How each of these people look in the celebrity tabloids is more important than their own happiness. When an actor in the movie tries to question the status quo, he is quickly shut down, which is a satirical stab at the film industry in the ’50s.
Overall, the film is satirizing the industry in a timeless manner. You can see the scathing remarks about our current movie production. It creates a sense of fakeness in all productions of movies. This is a truly brave message for not only the Coen brothers, but also the actors portraying these witless drones. The message is drowned under musical numbers and flashy cinematography. However, it is fully prominent. Is Hail, Caesar! right in its indignant message? The everyman may never know. Until that day, the movie will continue to make us laugh and scratch our heads in another Coen post-modern and confused masterpiece.