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Hail, Caesar! Review: love letter to Hollywood

Hail, Caesar!, the 17th film from writing/directing duo Joel and Ethan Coen, is a silly, quirky and endearing love letter to Hollywood and the studio structure. It is the most Coen-iest films the Coens have produced together and whilst it will fall flat on its face for some, Hail, Caesar! is a prestige picture that delights with every conversation.

Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood studio fixer, and his arduous job of keeping the industry and the flip-flopping stars in line.

Acting – A

Channing Tatum in Hail Caesar

There is not one bad performance in Hail, Caesar! It is filled to the brim with kooky turns and scene stealing performances that manage to one up each other scene after scene. Ralph Fiennes is hilarious as the pompous and stuck-up posh director, Josh Brolin is perfect as the laboured Eddie Mannix, George Clooney is terrific as the bumbling and charismatic star Baird Whitlock but it is Alden Ehrenreich as the slack jawed and drawl voiced Western star Hobie Doyle that stands head and heels above the rest.

Alden Ahrenreich in Hail Caesar

Ehrenreich admittedly has some of the best scenes in the film but the magic and talent he possesses and showcases every second is effervescent and magnetic. He is fun and hilarious as he struts and stumbles through Hollywood playing the quintessential Coen character. Although he is run close by the ever-amazing Josh Brolin who, if he hasn’t already, has to cement himself as one of the best actors working today. He isn’t the little kid from The Goonies anymore.

Writing – B+

If you’ve seen any Coen Brothers film, you should know that Hail, Caesar! is far more Coen-y that the rest of them. It is gaudy and silly and entirely fun. The Coen Brothers have used Hail, Caesar! as a love letter and homage to the golden age of cinema but it also features some of the best and funniest pieces they’ve ever produced. The various religious figures meeting to discuss a cinematic depiction of Christ is a fantastic short film in and of itself.

However, Hail, Caesar! opens with a narration (played by the lovely Michael Gambon) that comes and goes whenever it feels like it. It doesn’t really have a place in the story and feels forced in for the sake of having a narrator. There are also sequences that didn’t really have a place aside from the fact, again, that the Coens thought up a funny scene and wanted to include it in some manner.

Hail, Caesar! is a brilliant film. It features a terrific ensemble cast hitting their peak with every word but it is the absurd Coen Brothers script and sensibility and Alden Ehrenreich’s top-notch performance that steals the show.

Score – B+

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