Channing Tatum in&nbsp;<em>Hail, Caesar</em>

Review: Hail, Caesar! | Universal Pictures | In movie theaters

Oh Hail Yes!

With Hail, Caesar!, a nod to the song-and-dance, Technicolor era of movies, the Coen Brothers have made on of their funniest films.

published Monday, February 8, 2016


Joel and Ethan Coen make a welcome and long-awaited return to comedy with Hail, Caesar!, a slap-happy valentine to the Technicolor heyday of Hollywood that lands somewhere between the trippy brilliance of The Big Lebowski and the goofball parable of O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It is a lighthearted yarn that goes down easy like the old-fashioned popcorn pictures it so lovingly spoofs. Theirs is not Golden Age Hollywood as it was; it's Golden Age Hollywood as we imagine it to have been.

As always, the Coens have assembled an impressive ensemble cast and, as is often the case with their comedies, the plot is a piece of absurdist machinery designed to maneuver a bizarre array of misfit characters, who are the real draw here.

The movie is set mostly on the back lot of fictional Capitol Pictures, in Hollywood circa 1951. Moving throughout the goings on like a shark in a mid-life crisis is a fictionalized version of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “fixer” who keeps the stars out of the tabloids and the cameras rolling on the studio's various productions. It is by no means easy: Over the next 24 hours he'll have to cast B-grade singing cowboy star Hobie Doyle (Alden Eherenreich) in a drawing room romance by fussy auteur director Laurence Laurentz (a sublimely funny Ralph Fiennes), arrange for unmarried Esther Williams-esque starlet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) to adopt her own unborn child (you read that right), and fend off twin sister gossip columnists Thessaly and Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton times two).

Photo: Universal Pictures
Scarlett Johansen in Hail, Caesar

To further complicate matters, Capitol's megastar, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), has disappeared from the set of the studio's prestige picture Hail, Caesar! with major scenes left to be shot. Whitlock has been kidnapped by an oddball group of eggheads and blacklisted writers who call themselves The Future. (Think Trumbo by way of Brazil.)

Cinematography god-among-mortals Roger Deakins, who photographed SkyfallSicario, and all but two of the Brothers' feature films (Burn After Reading and Inside Llewyn Davis), does a fantastic job of recreating the Technicolor feel of '50s-era Hollywood. Their perennial costumer, Mary Zophres, and production designer Jess Gonchor cement the movie's authentic look and feel.

The movie is ultimately an actor's vehicle, and Hail, Caesar!'s cast goes for broke with the material. Brolin is the lone (and endearing) straight man in a parade of eccentrics, and the perfect one for them. He's fierce on the job, but he's an insecure mess who exhausts his priest by giving Confession on a daily basis, usually in the wee hours. Clooney, a supporting player despite what the trailers would have us believe, pokes a little fun at his leading man status as a clueless, poor-man's Charlton Heston. Swinton makes us wish for a film entirely about her feuding characters. Johansson is in only a couple of scenes, but makes the most of every second. There is a score of character actors and cameo appearances filling every scene.

However, it's Ehrenreich who steals the movie. He fully nails Doyle's guileless, aw-shucks charm hide a cagier man that many underestimate. A scene between Ehrenreich and Fiennes on the set of Laurentz's potboiler is arguably the movie's high point. (Imagine Douglas Sirk having to direct a Tex Ritter knock-off and you get the idea.) A close second is Channing Tatum's song-and-dance sequence, which starts off as a spoof of Gene Kelly before subverting itself with some well-placed homo-eroticism.

In the end it may be a little too meta and insidery for some, but there's an exuberance to it all that sweeps one along. Big and absurd, it works like a charm, and it delivers with style. Thanks For Reading

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Oh Hail Yes!
With Hail, Caesar!, a nod to the song-and-dance, Technicolor era of movies, the Coen Brothers have made on of their funniest films.
by Gary Dowell

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :