Review: ‘Hail, Caesar!’

Roman Centurion

Roman Centurion

I don’t purport to be a member of the fourth estate. I’ll take the fifth. We went to see a sneak preview of the new Coen brothers movie, “Hail, Caesar!” It opens this weekend. The line to get in was already long when we arrived. I was afraid that we would be turned away, but we got in, even if we couldn’t sit together. The good stadium seats were all reserved for the fourth estate. We were up front so that they in addition to being able to watch the movie, they could also judge our crowd reaction. I was an unpaid extra. They weren’t the only ones watching us. We were warned to not use any electronic devices. We were going to be watched, with night vision goggles no less, just to ensure that no piracy would occur. They needn’t had worried about me, I ended up in the front row all the way on the side. I had a rather distorted view of the screen, at least the movie wasn’t shown in 3D. That would have been too much.

I liked the film, even if I can’t claim to have fully understood it. There is a lot going on, with many show business references and more than a few that went over my head. The movie is chock full of A-list stars, many of them getting so little screen time that their performances are little more than cameos. With all of the material that is covered, the show is only 106 minutes long. The movie is set in 1951 Hollywood, during the golden age of the studio system. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, Capitol studio’s fixer. His job is to keep the studio and its stars out of the gossip columns. His already full day gets even more overloaded when the studio’s leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious organization called ‘The Future’. Some of the movie references are unmistakable. Scarlett Johansson plays a brassy Ester Williams like character. She is one of Mannix’s many chores, being knocked up, unwed and beginning to have problems fitting into her mermaid costume. Is this storyline biographical? I guess that this is my fundamental question about the film, what was it about? Obviously, it was about Hollywood of that era, but what was it really all about? The future wants to know!

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