New Coen Brothers folly Hail Caesar! (Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDorman, etc.) is out today (for Montrealers at Cinema du Parc in English with French subs).
In the 1950’s, a Hollywood fixer works to keep the studio’s stars in line and cleans up major problems before they find their way to the tabloids. But when a studio star vanishes, the fixer has to deal with more than just the fix.
Great 50’s Hollywood films on business insiders (think of the Bad and the Beautiful, All about Eve or more recently The Player, for instance) get the Coen treatment. With the return of many regulars both in the acting and artisans category (Roger Deakins on cinematography, Carter Burwell on scoring duty), it’s like a walk in the Park for the two brothers. They can draw from various Hollywood cliches and pastiche numerous scenery in the way they are so found of. Brilliant at time (as you can expect from the duet ) it offers some highly enjoyable moments : the debate with the religious board, made of priests from different religions, on the content of a movie about Christ or an impatient director trying to endlessly teach a line to a young star limited on talent. But at times it falls short because it is overall unnecessary complicated (for what it has to say and show) with multiple cross stories linked on the Hollywood period they depict, namely the Communist screenwriters group who kidnapped the star. It’s obviously filled with numerous cinematic references that could be difficult to get for a wide audience.
Lets face it, It’s a lesser Coen, but a lesser Coen is still a Coen…