The Coen Brothers are back with “Hail, Caesar!”

Hail Caesar George Clooney
Just about every other year, more or less like clockwork, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen unleash another film on audiences across the world. Fans of their work will probably be delighted by Hail, Caesar!, which opens this weekend and really resembles some of the most overtly comedic work from the Coens. It’s got an A list cast and an Old Hollywood setting, which will make some folks assume this is a prestige picture. In reality though, this is more of a romp and an example of the filmmaking brothers just having a grand old time. It didn’t thrill me like it will thrill others, but I suspect this won’t be another big Oscar player of theirs, regardless.

The film is a look at the day in the life of a Hollywood fixer. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) works at a big studio in the early 1950’s, making sure that all of the stars stay out of trouble, and more importantly…stay out of the papers. When top star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, Eddie is given his toughest assignment yet. For the most part, this movie is largely plotless, checking in on the Baird situation from time to time, but by and large just following around Eddie as he interacts with stars like Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), starlets like DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), and filmmakers like Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Obviously, Joel and Ethan Coen direct, with the rest of the cast including Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, and many more. Behind the camera, the legend that is Roger Deakins does the cinematography.

What works for me here with Hail, Caesar! is the feel for what the movie industry used to be like. In many ways, this has the tone and feel of a number of other funny flicks from the Coen Brothers, so if you’re down with something like The Big Lebowski, I suspect this will work for you as well. Those aren’t my favorites, so I can be hit or miss with the brothers Coen, but that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying. Certain members of the cast, like Johansson and Tatum, steal the show too, so there’s that as well. It’s a mixed bag, but not without its charms.

Awards wise, I think this will have a hard road ahead, though one or two categories might be promising. Still, with a decent box office haul, I have no doubt that a big campaign could be launched. Pitches in Best Picture, Best Director (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Actor (Josh Brolin), Best Supporting Actor (George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, and/or Channing Tatum), Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson), Best Original Screenplay (the Coens), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. I’d focus in on Cinematography, where Deakins could be once again up for a win, but that remains to be seen. This will have to do decently well at the box office in order to catch on and be worth the studio’s time and money. We shall see what happens there.

As a bonus, here’s how I would rank the top ten films from the Coens:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. No Country for Old Men
3. Fargo
4. Barton Fink
5. Burn After Reading
6. Raising Arizona
7. Blood Simple
8. A Serious Man
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
10. True Grit

Overall, a week with a new film from the Coens is a good thing, so there is rejoicing to be done there. It may not be my favorite movie of theirs, but it’s a flick that will certainly have its fans. I could see it becoming a cult favorite of the filmmakers, so make of that what you will. Come the weekend, you’ll be able to dive back to Tinseltown in the 50’s with Joel and Ethan, so if you dig on what they normally submit for your approval, this will probably do it for you as well. Enjoy, if so…

Be sure to check out Hail, Caesar!, in theaters everywhere this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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