I do Love my Screwball

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Title: Hail, Caesar!

Rating: 4 Stars

I have to admit that I like the lighter fare of the Coen brothers. That probably makes me a philistine.

For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hudsucker Proxy. The pacing / screwball nature of Hail, Caesar! reminded me of it, so I enjoyed this one as well. I know that generally speaking such movies are considered to be the weaker part of the Coen brothers oeuvre. I’m sure that it will not be a candidate for many Oscars, but as pure entertainment, I thought it was great. For me, I prefer these types of their movies to such movies as Inside Llewyn Davis and A Serious Man. I know, please don’t judge me.

The plot centers around a movie studio fixer, Eddie Mannix, who in the span of one day, has several catastrophes to resolve. His leading man has been kidnapped by Communists (and apparently is becoming converted to their cause), his female lead in his swimming movies is pregnant and unmarried, he’s forcing a transition of his cowboy movie star to a high society comedy, and he’s fending off twin gossip columnists trying to get to the truth.

Interestingly enough, even though the movie studio is fictional and this is clearly a work of fiction, Eddie Mannix was a real studio fixer. Here he is played as a morally upright person trying to do the right thing (he attends confessional on a nightly basis). My understanding of the real Eddie Mannix is that he was not such a great guy. He had repeated affairs while married to his first wife, apparently helped get Spencer Tracy out of an underage sex scandal, and may have had Superman (as in George Reeves) killed.

I find it interesting that they actually referenced a real person for this character and for no other. I wonder why? One idea might be that pretty clearly this movie is trying to show the dichotomy between the lightweight movie fare that was being produced in the 50’s (swimming mermaids, dancing / singing sailors, Christian epics) and the actual hard reality of how these movies were made. Since Hail, Caesar! is itself a movie (duh!) by taking what was in reality an at best amoral, brutally efficient fixer and in the movie throwing a gauze of morality around him it might actually be making a statement about that very dichotomy. I don’t know; I just work here.

George Clooney, as the kidnapped actor, has, as usual, great fun working with the brothers.

Tilda Swinton, as the twin gossip columnists, also appears to be having fun.

The interplay between the cowboy actor and the ‘classy’ movie director, played by Ralph Fiennes is great. The scene where the director is attempting to teach diction to a Southern boy is worth the price of admission in of itself.

So, I probably won’t be remembering or quoting from this movie ten years from now, but all in all, I thought it was a lot of fun. For all of you who just want to see the serious Coen brothers, well, haters gonna hate.

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