The Captain weighs in on the newest Coen Bros. picture. Will his thoughts mirror my own issues with the script?
I never got around to seeing this when it came out in theaters, I think mostly because Deadpool came out like a week later. And no way was I going to see this over Deadpool.
The trailers for Hail, Caesar didn’t look too bad to me. I thought that maybe I was looking at another O Brother, Where Art Thou or The Hudsucker Proxy. But what I got was The Ladykillers.
When the Coen brothers are good, they’re great. But when they’re bad… lookout, man.
This film is a muddled mess. It isn’t Batman v Superman bad, but still a giant mess of a film. It has some interesting elements, ideas I think would have worked if the Coen brothers had someone there to give them some direction, some clarity. A voice of any kind of reason. Instead, it seems they got a blank check and were told to do whatever. In some instances that can work out. And sometimes you get an ego fueled disaster most likely made by M. Night Shyamalan.
So like I said, this film does have some good elements to it. There are things that I found really interesting mainly Josh Brolin’s character Eddie Mannix. I like the idea of this kind of being about him having just another typical bad day. He has to deal with young troubled starlets, unwed pregnancies, gay actors about to be outed, hell even communism. And yes, this film does feature all those things, but the way it is told, I found to be too sporadic, never focusing on a character or a plot long enough for you, the audience, to care.
In my mind, this should have been like a 1950’s version of 30 Rock. Josh Brolin as Liz Lemon. George Clooney being Tracy Jordan. And sure I guess Scarlett Johansson would be Jenna. Of course now I’m realizing that if you have never actually seen 30 Rock, you’ll have no clue what I’m talking about. But trust me, this film would have worked so much better if it took that path.
So what path did this film take?
For one, this film felt like it needed to be like a juggling act with more balls getting tossed into the mix. Instead it felt like they were taking a break each time the ball got passed to the other hand. An issue would occur, and get brushed off way too easily. I get that maybe Mannix is kind of used to this kind of thing, alluding that this is just an everyday occurrence. But for the sake of the audience, act like some of this matters. Hell, your main actor was just kidnapped. Act like you give a shit!
Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, the head of a big Hollywood studio in the 1950’s. The studio is working on one of their biggest pictures, a Christ film starring George Clooney as Baird Whitlock. A pretty famous actor with a lot of personal issues, too much drinking and too much philandering. Not to mention maybe some gay on the set rumors.
And on a side note, aren’t you glad Hollywood no longer makes giant budgeted religious films. That we’re now treated to poorly cheaply made propaganda films like God’s Not Dead 2 and War Room? Kind of like how we no longer get great spoof movies like Airplane! Or Naked Gun but instead are treated to Meet the Blacks. Or anything with Marlon Wayans in it.
While dealing with George Clooney’s character, Josh Brolin also has to deal with Scarlett Johansson. A… what do you call those films? The ones that took place only in a pool, featuring only water chorography. Yeah, the 50’s where a weird time for movies. What people would go see is astounding. Anyway, ScarJo’s fling with a married director has left her knocked up. This being the 1950’s, her being pregnant and not wed, is a giant scandal.
Their plan, have her adopt her own baby. This mixed amongst other plot threads, leads us to Jonah Hill’s one scene where he plays a fall guy. Or a guy that if you need something done, he does it. Legal or not. I’ll try not to focus too much on this seeing as the film doesn’t bother either. I mean, the conclusion to this “story” is she falls in love with Jonah Hill’s character and they run off to get married. All told to us in passing.
Now the real shining star of this film is Alden Ehrenreich. Who I remember a long time ago for being on an old episode of Supernatural. If this film has any kind of saving grace, it is him.
He plays Hobie Doyle, this western cowboy actor that is great at shooting, riding horses, doing tricks and playing the guitar. What he isn’t great at is acting. Unfortunately for him he has just been moved to do a picture featuring no shooting, no horse riding and no guitar playing. Just acting. And he is terrible. But he is also this good ol’ oh shucks kind of guy. Which instantly makes his character enthralling. At least he was to me.
At one point, I thought the plot of the story, the real plot, was George Clooney’s character gets kidnapped, so Josh Brolin has to gather these actors together to help get him back. Like Ocean’s 11 but you know, stupid.
So to finish up Hobie’s “story”, they make him go on a date with kind of the chiquita banana lady. It was the 50’s, I don’t know what kind of movies she made. But they referenced her wearing bananas on her head, so… banana movies.
Hobie is actually the one who discovers that Channing Tatum is the head kidnapper.
So Channing Tatum. He plays an actor in a dancing sailor movie, singing about how they won’t get to see any ladies for a few months, but at least the sailors have each other.
I should also mention, each time one of these characters is introduced, we are treated to a scene of the movie they’re working on.
George Clooney the roman Christ picture, Scarjo the weird synchronized swimming film, Hobie and his western and finally Channing Tatum with his gay musical. I found all that stuff interesting. Sometimes I’d rather be watching the films they were acting in instead of the one I was actually watching.
I really wish the film focused on just the Hobie character. Scarjo really has no point of being in this. Have the studio hook Hobie up with her, to help hide the whole unwed pregnancy thing, and Hobie stumbling into the kidnapping plot. Do something interesting, don’t just give us a collection of shorts that don’t really go anywhere.
There’s also a really weird scene where the editor gets her scarf stuck in the projector. Josh Brolin is watching some dailies from the Christ picture when her scarf gets stuck, choking her. It comes off as so out of place.
Also mixed in this muddled plot are these two twin reporters played by Tilda Swinton. Who I thought might be an homage to Hedda Hopper, recently played by Helen Mirren in Trumbo. But who knows. They also kind of have no point in being in this movie. One of the twins wants to run a story about what happened on the set of one of Clooney’s films. Rumor has it he was sleeping with the male director. A rumor started by Channing Tatum’s character. So if it was true, I don’t know. But the way everyone acts whenever it is brought up, makes you think it was.
So now the ACTUAL plot of this film, that only really takes up about 20 minutes or so. George Clooney is drugged and taken hostage by fellow screenwriters/communist. They want money, yet at the same time they don’t. I mean, at the end when Channing Tatum is jumping aboard a soviet sub, they accidently drop the money into the ocean, no one really caring that much. Also handing the money over willingly to Channing Tatum. I guess to help the cause, but still, it all seemed pointless.
Which I think sums up this movie perfectly. It’s pointless.
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