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Review: Hail, Caesar

First, an admission: I was never a huge fan of the Coen-brothers. I never watched any of their movies except for Bridge of Spies (which I loved!), The Big Lebowski (which was ok), and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou (which was so-so).

I hadn’t read or seen anything about this movie when I went to see it, so I didn’t know what to expect. The movie starts off in antique Rome, where a roman soldier, played by Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is leading a flock of prisoners back to the capitol.

Soon, the movie somewhat abruptly cuts to a confession booth inside a Catholic church. Here we meet the movie’s actual protagonist, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). He’s a “fixer” working for a Hollywood studio in the 1950s, and the movie depicts a day in his life.

Ralph Fiennes as Laurence Laurentz
Ralph Fiennes as Laurence Laurentz

Problems start piling up almost immediately: Whitlock is drugged by a couple of extras on the set and kidnapped by what turns out to be a bunch of screenwriters-turned-communists. They demand $100,000 in ransome money from the studio.

DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johanson), another one of the studio’s stars, has become pregnant and doesn’t want to take responsibility for her baby while her movie is in production.

The director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is missing a male lead for his latest production. With all these things going on at the same time and more, hilarity ensues.

What I liked best about this movie was its interspersed scenes from movies that could have been made in the 1950s, complete with dancing sailors, diving mermaids, live music, and rodeo cowboys. Movies are not made this way anymore, and this movie offers a fresh look at how things were way back when.

The acting performances are spot on, as you would expect from the ensemble that this movie offers up. In the end though, this really is Brolin’s movie, and he works really hard to make you feel for all the problems he has to fix during the course of this movie.

I also liked quite a lot of the music in this movie, which is fittingly infused with plenty of jazz and big band.

If you like period movies, smart comedies, classic Hollywood, and /or movies made by the Coen brothers, you will definitely like this one.

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