I did not go to the Coen brothers “Hail Caesar” with high expectations. Even so, I was disappointed. It had a star-studded cast with Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson, Ralph Feinnes, Tilda Swinton playing dual roles of reporter twins, Jonah Hill, Francis Mc Dormand, and Channing Tatum, but it was not funny. It was a slow, hackneyed, and dull film. The writing was not up to par, the acting was stilted, and the direction rudderless.
To her credit, Francis Mc Dormand as C. C. Calhoun, the chain smoking film editor, was by far the funniest character in the film. I actually laughed out loud! Kuddos to Francis Mc Dormand. Her performance in this dull film was fresh and spontaneous. Alden Erenreich, as the shy cowboy star, Hobie Doyle, also stood out. He was fresh and someone to watch for. I loved his scenes with Ralph Feinnes as the British director. He was perfect as the naïve singing cowboy who is a very bad actor eager to please. He was so funny trying to mimic director Laurence Laurentz’ British accent. And I loved his scenes with Veronica Osorio as Carlotta Valdez (Carmen Miranda). He is a refreshing new comer. John Bluthal as the elderly Professor Marcuse also was a stand-out. Christopher Lambert as director Arne Seslum was just okay, nothing special. And Channing Tatum as the singing dancing sailor, and Communist Burt Gurney was in top form. He can sing and dance like in those old musicals. That dance sequence was fun. The filming of him in the boat as the submarine pops up was silly. And, he seemed out of his element. There is a cast pf 229 actors and the Coens use many fun character types. Quantity over quality did not work for the writing, and directing duo.
The film takes place in the 1950s and shows what the inner workings of studio life is about. Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, who runs the studio and has to do damage control. It falls upon him to oversee the “Hail Caesar” filming, the spaghetti westerns starring Hobie Doyle (Alden Erenreich), the musical comedies (Channing Tatum) , the drawing room comedic dramas directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Feinnes), and synchronized swimming films starring Dee Ann Moran (Scarlett Johannson). The Communists are on the rise and as such are represented by a group of writers who kidnap Baird Whitlock, (George Clooney), the star of ‘Hail Caesar”, just before his concluding scene on the film. He is being held for ransom by the Communist writers. Who cares?
Everyone does cameo bits and film buffs will guess who these stars are playing. It was not enough to sustain my interest. And, I did guess who a few of these actors were supposed to be. Reality was suspended and except for a handful of good performances, the rest was hackneyed and not at all funny. I did not hear people in the audience laughing. One woman, said as she was walking out said, “That was painful.” It was. I had looked at my watch several times to see how much longer the film would be. Some of the lines had me inwardly groaning. It is hard to imagine these stars giving bad performances, but that they did.
All in all, it was a lackluster film, which lacked energy, good writing, comedic timing, and good directing. This could have been a fun satire of the golden age of film. It was not. It was fun to look back at what life at the studio was like in the fifties, but that was it. The costumes were great, the sets were great, the extras were great, but the rest was MEH. There were a few stand-out performances, but the rest could not make this a fun film for me.
Check your local theater listings to see where “Hail Caesar” is playing. I would give it zero stars but this site does not offer that rating.