Hail Caesar! Parent Review
Modern audiences may not be sufficiently familiar with the films, stars, and era being mocked to appreciate or ignore the lack of a cohesive storyline.
I suspect many of us grew up dreaming about being movie stars, and wondering what it would be like to sing, dance or act in our favorite films. After watching Hail, Caesar! I have come to the conclusion that this fantasy is not exclusive to “ordinary” people. Obviously the big name actors who appear in this Coen Brothers production share some of that enthusiasm—because they all seem to be really enjoying recreating the sort of entertainment Hollywood was cranking out during its golden age. In fact, they are almost having too much fun.
In this spoof set in 1951, Josh Brolin is cast as executive Eddie Mannix. In truth he is a “fixer” employed to make the studio look good by keeping the bad behavior of its associated celebrities out of the gossip columns. He plays with relish the part of a devout Catholic, whose biggest sin is cheating on a promise to his wife to quit smoking. Loyal to the studio chief, Mannix uses his talents to put the best spin possible on the misdemeanors of his colleagues. Occasionally that means he slaps some sense into them in private (literally—he strikes both a man and a woman) so they will “act” more appropriately in public.
One of Mannix’s biggest problems is the sudden disappearance of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a womanizer who has top billing on an in-production Bible epic. Clooney gives a remarkable chameleon-like portrayal of the egotistical star best known for depicting grand and powerful characters, even though in person he is an academic midget easily swayed by the opinions of others.
Another tempest the studio representative needs to calm is the headliner in an aquatic picture. When he visits DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) on set, she transforms from a delicate mermaid with a touch of seasickness into a tough talking broad with a case of morning sickness. Mannix knows how unhealthy it will be for everyone if the condition of the twice divorced and presently single swimming actress gets leaked to the press.
Next, classically trained director Laurence Laurentz (played to perfection by Ralph Fiennes) focuses his frustration on Mannix after studio politics assign a singing cowboy named Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) as the lead male in his high-society romance. Despite his initial patience, getting the twang out of Hobie’s dialogue proves not to be “so simple!”
Meanwhile, on another soundstage, Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum who is having a blast doing a Gene Kelly impersonation) is dressed as a sailor and hoofing it to a song about dames. It is a great production number, although it is not clear how it ties into the plot…
And that may be the biggest disappointment with Hail, Caesar! Surprisingly, it is not the objectionable content, which is minimal—although there are verbal references to sexual behavior and innuendo along with frequent portrayals of characters drinking and smoking. The trouble is the movie falls short of pulling together a cohesive storyline. While this was also the case with many of the big films from those glory days (and perhaps is part of this production’s mocking of that era), I’m not sure modern audiences will be bamboozled enough to overlook that deficiency. Despite the witty performances and the inclusion of some satirical communist rhetoric, if you are not sufficiently familiar with the films and stars being mocked, I fear this Coen collaboration will just be another reason to believe it is a good thing that “they don’t make ‘em how they used to.”Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, George Clooney. Running time: 106 minutes. Updated June 7, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Hail Caesar! here.
Hail Caesar! Parents Guide
Where does Mannix turn to for help managing his stress and find answers to his questions? Does that source help him? What does he learn about listening to his inner voice? Where do you go to get help with your personal problems?
A character from outside the film industry describes movies as frivolous. Do you agree with him? What things were happening in the 1950s that put the longevity of moviemaking at risk? How did the industry get around those challenges? What concerns are filmmakers facing now? Do you think they will survive these latest challenges?
Why is the studio so concerned about protecting the celebrities’ images? How might their inference obstruct justice? Do you think it will help or hinder the growth of those removed from natural consequences?
This Coen Brothers film parodies many real Hollywood pictures and actors. The over budget production Hail, Caesar! resembles Cleopatra and Ben-Hur. Chaninng Tatum plays a dancing Navy officer just like Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh, while his song is reminiscent of one found in South Pacific. And Scarlett Johansson plays a bathing beauty similar to Esther Williams.