If Hail, Caesar! was about any of the films we only see snippets of, it might have actually been enjoyable. That is, as opposed to the nonsense focused on.
Trigger Warning(s): Violence Against Women
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
While not a studio head, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) perhaps does more than anyone to keep the studio afloat. He approves of stars, checks up on sets, deals with the press, and tries to keep scandals at bay. However, the job is wearing down on him and his marriage, and this catholic boy finds himself with an opportunity in aviation knocking on his door.
But how and why would a man exchange his current life for one in Aviation? Well, there is the issue of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) a huge star kidnapped by communist and costing the company a lot of money; there is DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who is pregnant, a bit of an around the way girl, unmarried, in the 1920s mind you, and a twice divorcee; and then there is Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who is a southern boy, used to being in westerns, who is now pushed toward being in drama and between his accent and the style of acting he is used to, he is nothing less than infuriating to his director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).
Placing the drama of each actor’s personal lives aside, and the satirical take of the old Hollywood system, what is also presented here are quite a few interesting productions. The one which stands out the most though is a musical number starring Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) about a bunch of Navy boys soon to be out to sea. Though, in general, you’ll find yourself more mesmerized by the short films than the actual movie itself.
The Stars Are Interesting Enough: Nearly every character you meet in the film is very distinct. Whether it is the womanizing Baird, the southern boy pushed into an unfamiliar genre with Hobie, DeeAnna being this Hollywood star with an accent which shows she is from some inner city, down to the actors with almost bit parts like Fiennes, who are only in the film for a few scenes, yet leave a lasting impression.
Channing Tatum’s Musical Number Was Awesome: Between the actual Hail, Caesar! Production and the few others we see, the only one which leaves you wanting more, and seems like something you may want to watch, is the musical Burt Gurney is in.
Jews vs. Everyone Else: In Eddie’s pursuit of making Hail, Caesar! Not only the studio’s biggest production but attempt to make it historically accurate, he calls on multiple faiths in order to see if they approve of their depiction of Jesus. Something which leads to quite the interesting back and forth as the rabbi faces off with damn near everyone in terms of Jesus’ place within the grand scheme of religion.
Big Ideas and Little People: A good portion of the time in the movie is dedicated to Baird’s kidnapping by the communist, which is mostly a group of writers, and unfortunately this leads to a huge amount of conversation about capitalism, communism, and how the studio system exploits all workers from the actors to the writers. Said conversation, I feel, while potentially interesting, isn’t presented in such a way that it would make you give a damn. Be it because all of the writers aren’t presented as much more than oddball stooges, or because the comedy nature of the film makes their whole argument for communism just eye roll inducing.
It’s Not That Funny: To me, this film has the feel of an indie movie, but with it having so many stars it presents the façade that it is mainstream. Which I note for this seems like the type of movie in which if you go to a New York theater, people will be laughing and just giggling up a storm. Meanwhile, you, the out of towner, are sitting there wondering what is funny? Not because you aren’t sophisticated or anything like that, but I think whatever style of would-be comedy here is so geared toward a niche audience, that while this is being treated as a regular old film, at its heart it is an indie motion picture.
A Lot of Famous Names with Very Little Screen Time: When it comes to the stars on the movie poster, prepare only for George Clooney, Josh Brolin, and Alden Ehreneich to be seen throughout. If you are watching this for anyone one else, prepare to see them in maybe 2-4 scenes at max, and for their part to ultimately just be a peg in the wheel. For, the way I see it, this movie seems more like their opportunity to work with the Coen Brothers than to really put on the type of performance to remember them. Much less one significant enough to be highlighted in their filmography.
Final Thought(s): Skip It
Some of the movies within this movie, like the repeatedly mention little musical that Burt Gurney stars in, are worth finding on YouTube, assuming it ever gets uploaded. However, for the most part this movie is quite boring and even in its pursuit of parody and perhaps presenting commentary on 1920s Hollywood, it never seems to have a point. Everyone talks to just talk, and even those you think should be taken seriously, you end up being the butt of the joke for you find out you was listening to an idiot.
Add on that damn near every star really only has a flash in the pan moment, and none of their storylines get firmly developed and concluded, and that is what derives a “Skip It” label. For this is one of those types of movies in which the trailer SUPREMELY made the film seem better than it is. So props to whoever edited that.