Hail, Caesar! unfortunately fails to compel its audience to care.”

by Rachel Wilford

With such an exceptional cast, one would think that Hail, Caesar! would be nothing short of an exceptional movie. But, it seems, the cast is the only thing the movie really has going for it, and sadly, the cast doesn’t have much to work with. Among frequently aroused questions such as, “Why is this happening?” and “Who cares?”, I often found myself trying to force my mind to focus, just in case the utter randomness of the movie ceased and it suddenly became interesting.

The film takes place in 1950’s Hollywood and follows the life of Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” of Hollywood movie star problems. Although the premise of the film is fictional, the protagonist himself is not. Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin, is known for his “fixing” of many Hollywood stars’ public images in the mid 1900’s. While this could entirely be an alluring plot for a movie, Hail, Caesar! unfortunately fails to compel its audience to care.

The film centers around Eddie Mannix and his search for Baird Whitlock, played by George Clooney, who has mysteriously disappeared from the set of his movie, Hail, Caesar! Later, Mannix receives a ransom note asking for $100,000 in return for his beloved actor. While most would think that a missing star, let alone a missing person, would be a big deal, Mannix does not seem as concerned as the audience expects him to be. In fact, he does hardly anything to get Whitlock back safely to set. Instead he goes to visit actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), talks to twin reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and meets with his client, Western movie star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). After Mannix delivers the ransom money to the agreed upon location, he seems to forget entirely about Whitlock, even though he still has not returned to the set.

Hail, Caesar!
Directed by
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Cast
Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich
Release Date
5 February 2016
Rachel’s Grade: D


Besides having an outstanding cast, Hail, Caesar! falls terribly short of expectations. The film lacks a feeling of suspense in a situation that very much calls for it. The audience expects Mannix to go to great lengths to retrieve his lost actor and expects Whitlock to perhaps embark on an extraordinary adventure that will lead him back to set, but the actual occurrences do nothing but disappoint and dissatisfy. There are many moments that appear to be striving to be comedic, yet the audience cannot tell and is left wondering, “was I supposed to laugh there?”

The film’s scene changes are so random and unsolicited that the plot becomes hard to follow. In multiple scenes, the characters seem to still be in the middle of a thought when a new scene is suddenly introduced. This tactic is surely trying to parallel the frenzy of Mannix’s life, but all it does is confuse the audience and leave them hanging on the previous scene instead of flowing with the film to the next one.

The sets of the movies within the movie are memorable, despite the movie as a whole being forgettable. Complete with extravagant rooms and impressive landscapes and scenery, the sets of each movie being filmed within Hail, Caesar! are more intriguing than Hail, Caesar! itself.

The characters, although played by such a stand-up cast, are too surface for the audience to be able to relate to and there is not enough screen time with each character to actually get to know them. The best and most relatable scene of the entire film was when Hobie gives us a taste of his cowboy roots when he uses a spaghetti noodle as a lasso while on a dinner date. The playfulness of this scene finally displays a sort of authenticity to a character for the first time in the film, and it woke me up from my confused and frustrated dormancy.

Lovers of movies beware: this movie about making movies is nowhere near a must-see. Hail, Caesar! has every opportunity to hit it out of the park, yet every time it saunters to the plate, clad in sandals and tunics, it swings and misses.