Hail, Caesar! is the Coen Brothers at their most Coen Brothersy. Irreverent, mad and downright hilarious, it’s like sketch comedy loosely moulded into a semi-coherent movie. Set in 1950s America, Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a move studio ‘fixer’ with the purpose of preserving the image of his stars. The studio is putting together the biblical epic from which this film gains its title. Its star is played by George Clooney, who is kidnapped by communists, as can sometimes happen. Meanwhile, a wild array of loosely interweaving stories criss-cross, including Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) getting cast in a serious, period drama, much to the frustration of director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), culminating in the film’s ultimate highpoint in which Doyle hilariously fails to fulfil Laurentz’s fastidious demands.
Like a lot of the funniest scenes in the film, it goes on and on, with the humour derived from the screwball preposterousness and delightful sense of the ridiculous. Channing Tatum’s enters with a homoerotic song and dance number, which is another brilliant example of the Coens ramping their uncontrolled eccentricity up to full power, whilst also giving the audience further proof that Tatum is an old-fashioned movie star who can do just about everything. Then there’s Tilda Swinton, another supremely talented actor having an absolute blast, playing twin sisters who work as gossip journalists, harassing Mannix and competing for a scoop. There’s so much going on that naturally it can miss as often as it hits, but those hits are so bold and raucous that they make any missteps and sidesteps more than forgivable. The first half is certainly the stronger, and what it ultimately adds up to is anybody’s guess, but fresh off the heels from the excellent but really quite sombre Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coens provide a welcome reminder of their side-splitting oddness.
Review by David Rank
Hail, Caesar! is out now in the UK. Certificate 12A (UK). Running time 106 mins.