Monday, February 08, 2016

Hail Caesar

       The latest from the Coen Brothers  falls somewhere in the middle of their cannon of work. Call it Coen Brothers lite. It's a comedy with it's own strange energy that revisits "Capitol Pictures", the imaginary Hollywood studio first introduced in "Barton Fink".

       The Coen's mix genres of classic Hollywood wrapping them around a central mystery of a kidnapped movie star, played by George Clooney.  Along side Mr. Clooney, Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a "fixer" for the studio that has to contend with Mr. Clooney's kidnapping,  a pregnant starlet played by Scarlett Johansson, a director (Ralph Fiennes) unhappy with his new leading man, and a singing cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) that would be much happier sticking to westerns. Besides dramas, westerns, and swimming spectacles, the Coen's throw in Channing Tatum as a song and dance man in a nautical musical.

        The whole thing is a fun romp and Mr. Brolin is just terrific as Eddie Mannix. He carries the bulk of the film on his broad shoulders juggling his various studio problems along with a pair of identical sister gossip columnists, both played by Tilda Swinton. Of course, being a Coen brothers film, the characters are all extraordinarily unique, right down to the cameo by Frances McDormand as a chain smoking film editor. And you won't quickly forget the talents of Mr. Ehrereich, who is also outstanding.

        There is always a certain degree of intellect in a Coen Brothers film and Mr. Clooney's kidnappers are far from what you might expect and will clearly surprise you. So too, is a discussion on the depiction of Jesus Christ  in the studio's religious epic, "Hail Caesar".  That round table discussion is just one highlight in a film filled with great scenes. The Channing Tatum musical sequence has to be seen to be believed. 

         Great dialog and attention to detail are always found in a Coen Brother film. Here however, the sum is not as good as it's parts. The Coen's rehash ideas from their own catalog and I particularly found the writing weak at the beginning and at the end, but there is enough in the middle to satisfy any fan of these original filmmakers. 

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