The Coens are back!
After three years, Joel and Ethan Coen have returned with a lightweight look at a bygone era in Hollywoodland. A mystery/comedy with hysterically dim characters engaging in a variety of conspiracies and double-crosses against the background of a meticulously re-created and reimagined world…which is always the case with the Coens. With Hail, Caesar!, they take us to Hollywood in the 1950s. Released this weekend, the film has a runtime of 100 minutes, and accompanied by a PG-13 rating for some suggestive content and smoking–but truthfully could have easily passed for PG.
My history with the Coens doesn’t go that far back. I’ve seen the vast majority of their work, and am quite pleased with their filmography overall. The highlights: True Grit being their best, No Country For Old Men coming in at a close second (a movie I originally didn’t care for), Fargo, and The Big Lebowski. The dismissals: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Ladykillers (obviously). I like their unique perspective, coal-black comedy, complex character idealism, and so on and so forth. They really deserve a book about them. Or a least an extensive blog entry (*glares in mirror*).
Although Caesar did not bring anything new to the table as far as plot or story, it did present ample opportunities for laughter and nervous chuckles. The Coens deliver a nostalgic, witty take on L.A. movie-making in the 50s, with reverence to the sentimental methods to filmmaking nowadays. The ensemble cast is entertaining to watch and play-up, yet again, the old-fashioned role models in the entertainment magazines and pulps. I especially enjoyed George Clooney’s overacting, cheesy character that he has played more than once before, and Tilda Swinton’s twin-set reporters. It is evident that the Coens were conscious of casting actors and actresses that fit “the look” of the golden age, and spread them out accordingly. Channing Tatum’s dance scene was a great nod-to some of the classic dance numbers from movies like Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Singing in the Rain.
I won’t spoil, but the only fault I had with Caesar was the random “twist”, or random nature, of the plot near the end of the third quarter. They have it in most of their films, specifically their comedies. And although I enjoyed the film, I found it lacked some minor elements that would make it a home run. Still enjoyable, mind you, but a movie I could have waited a few months to see on DVD. Although it stands above Burn After Reading, it falls just below Barton Fink.
Still, there is a lot to be had from this flick. So I do recommend it, especially if you are a fan (or are at least aware) of the Coen Brothers. They are something of an acquired taste, so to the movie-goer who is not privy to their nature, start with…eh…I would recommend True Grit. But if you’re brave enough…or patient enough…go for Fargo or The Big Lebowski.
The reviews for the movie have been favorable from critics. Rotten Tomatoes wrote: “Packed with period detail and perfectly cast, Hail, Caesar! finds the Coen brothers delivering an agreeably lightweight love letter to post-war Hollywood.” But the movie is struggling to connect with audiences. However, the movie opened reasonable against a $22 million budget, making nearly $4.2 million on its opening day (February 5, 2016).
I caught the movie with my #moviethunderbuddy , and we both decided to give it a high B-. It’s nostalgic, it’s a black comedy, and it’s the Coen Brothers latest entry. Fun fact, they have a routine of writing two scripts simultaneously, selecting the first one to film and jumping right into pre-production of the second one not long after the initial film in the duo runs its course in the theater. So although not much details have been given yet, their next movie has been announced as Black Money, a new crime/drama from their collective canon.