Hail, Caesar! has been unjustly relegated to the middle tier of Coen Bros. films, and I intend to put a stop to that. The movie is quietly one of the Coens’ best and it’s easily their sharpest comedy in years, lovingly paying tribute to Old Hollywood while also poking fun at it.
It follows a day in the life of 1950s Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he quashes scandals, reins in movie stars, and hunts for missing A-lister Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who’s been kidnapped by Communists.
So, without further ado, I’ve come up with four reasons why you should stop disrespecting Hail, Caesar! and start basking in its majesty.
The first time I saw Hail, Caesar! I saw its sprawling plot as a weakness, rather than a strength. The disappearance of Baird Whitlock is the main through line of the film, but around that we have pregnancy scandals, job offers, tap dancing sailors, and Hobie Doyle’s misadventures to keep track of.
All of this can make the film feel disjointed—and maybe it is—but it’s also incredibly funny if you follow along. The “would that it were so simple” scene is a standout moment in the film, and the one that’s had the most sticking power in the popular conscious, but religious leaders debating the corporeal and spiritual bona fides of Jesus Christ, a lawyer considering the legality of having an unwed starlet adopt her own child to preserve her image, and Jonah Hill’s standout cameo are also sharp, funny, and rewatchable.
2. Alden Ehrenreich
It’s already been said, but I’ll say it again: Alden Ehrenreich is incredible in Hail, Caesar!. This is the kind of star-making performance actors would kill for, and it’s unfortunate that Solo: A Star Wars Story (which he whips ass in!) seems to have derailed Ehrenreich’s career for the time being.
3. “No Dames”
Channing Tatum doesn’t get a lot of screen time in Hail, Caesar!, but he makes the absolute most of what he’s given. His final scene—boarding a submarine—has a comedic twist that he plays to perfection, but it’s his introductory number that steals the show.
The energy Tatum exudes while wearing a tight little sailor suit and lamenting the lack of women on the open ocean is something that motion pictures need more of. The dance routine has enough verve to satisfy as a straightforward musical number, but the jokes the scene mines from its sexual undertones make it even more fun to watch (and watch… and watch…).
4. Glimpses of the Golden Age
The movie acts, above all else, as a love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age. The Coens crafted musical numbers in the style of 1950 films—“No Dames,” ScarJo’s character’s aquatic number, Hobie Doyle singing “Lazy Ol’ Moon”—that are lovingly rendered.
We’re also given scenes from a 1950s Western, an old spy thriller, a romantic drama, and, of course, the titular biblical epic throughout the film, as Mannix goes about his day-to-day business and Hobie Doyle tries to make the career transition from cowboy to classy.
Moving between the different films being produced on the lot by Capitol Pictures contributes to the movie’s disjointedness, but it also gives it its character. The trailers for Hail, Caesar! promised a star-studded heist film with everyone teaming up to save Whitlock, but instead we were given something much more elegiac—a wistful reminiscence of bygone Hollywood.
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