Hail, Caesar! begins abruptly… and it ends abruptly.
And you know what, that’s a good descriptor for the entire film… abrupt.
Hail, Caesar! – The Film
The theme, the sets, and the overall styling of Hail, Caesar! reminds me strongly of other Coen Brother’s films.
It’s like you just get this feeling that somebody is about to tell you a story, you’re about to be transported into a different world, you just get the sense that it’s story time. Hail, Caesar! strongly reminded me of O Brother, Where Art Thou in that regarded. In other words, all of the styling of the film signaled that it was like the Coen Brother’s other stories.
The issue though, is that while the styling of Hail, Caesar! promises a quality story like O Brother, Where Art Thou, it fails to deliver.
The film opens at a running pace. We begin with a confession. Then, you are instantly launched into Hail, Caesar!, following Eddie Manix the “fixer” of Capitol Studios through his hectic and crazy day. It’s almost like your mind has to jog to catch up with Eddie because of the abrupt running pace of the story. We aren’t really sure of Eddie’s responsibilities or what he actually does… we just know that he seems to be the head guy around Capitol Studios and we get the sense that he is exasperated with everything.
Then as we catch up to the story line and begin to understand who Eddie is and what he does, we start having big name actors thrown at us… and it never stops. Throughout Hail, Caesar! we continually have big name actors thrown at us. It’s almost shocking, like I have no idea how you get a big enough budget to include all of these actors.
We have George Clooney as the actor Baird Whitlock, we have Ralph Fiennes as the director Laurence Laurentz, we have Scarlett Johansson as the pregnant actress DeeAnna Moran, we have Tilda Swinton as the reporters Thora Thacker AND Thessaly Thacker, we have Channing Tatum as the secret communist actor Burt Gurney… the list goes on and on. Even the extras used in Hail, Caesar! are big names (Wayne Knight of Jurassic Park and Seinfeld anybody?).
All of these big names cause issues though… for one thing we never get much screen time with ANY of the actors since there’s just so dang many of them. Even George Clooney as Baird Whitlock, who is supposed to be the most important character after Eddie Manix, barely has any screen time. That makes the very hectic, abrupt, pace of the film more pronounced. It also means we keep getting distracted from the actual story line because we the viewers have to keep going “wait what the heck is that Newman???” and “since when was Channing Tatum in here?”
The film ends just like it began, with a confession.
The film ends just as abruptly as it began.
It was almost like a director had screamed”END SCENE” at his actors during a rehearsal and the fictional world they had all created just instantly vanished.
So again, abrupt is the key word here.
Honestly, I feel like some Hollywood executive went “we need a Coen Brother’s film to fill in this gap in our release schedule!!! but we can’t afford one of their big films…. so just have them get one of their short ideas, we’ll throw in a bunch of extra stuff, and we’ll milk that while we wait for the real Coen Brothers film to debut next year!”
I mean really, the film feels strongly like it was one of the Coen’s short stories that they wrote one weekend and forgot about till some executive wanted them to come up with something… Hail, Caesar! is just so short and abrupt, with shallow characters, and a tiny plot line that it has to be a short story that got extended into a feature-length film. It’s either that or else the Coen Brother’s have let their story telling slip a bit… which I have a hard time believing.
And contrary to all the reviews out there blathering on about stupid nonsense like “ha ha clueless Clooney at his best!” and “the Coen Brothers take a look at Old Hollywood in their film Hail, Caesar! and it’s so funny ha ha!”… This film really doesn’t feature much of Clooney nor is it a look at the Hollywood of the 1950’s. But hey what else can you expect from big magazines and ‘news outlets’ except nonsense.
The film is just so abrupt… Also, not very funny. The humor in Hail, Caesar! is mostly of the ‘awkward situation’ variety.
You can find meaning in Hail, Caesar!, what that meaning is depends on who you are.
You could say that the meaning of the film is something like ‘finding peace in one’s work’.
You could say it’s about accepting that you may not make much money or make it home at 5:30 every night or have an easy job… but that’s what makes it worth doing. The constant struggle, the hard work to improve yourself and the world around you, makes life worth living and your work worth doing. What you do on a daily basis has value. It’s about a personal journey that is applicable to us all.
You could also say that Hail, Caesar!’s meaning lies in the system of values inherent to the film rather than a particular persons journey. You could say it’s a demonstration of conflicting grand ideals. So we have Capitol Pictures “exploiting” actors and writers for profit, we have Eddie whose job is to aid in the “exploitation” by forcefully making the pictures go from idea to finished product, we have the writers and actors attempting to profit themselves by doing what they do, we have the directors profiting from the ability to spin a story together on a sound stage, and to take a step back… we have the Coen Brothers profiting from telling us, the viewer, a story.
You could say the film is a realization, a pointing out, that the world is about self-interest and that may not be such a terrible thing… Because at the end of the day, the actors get to act, the writers get to write, the directors get to direct, and the viewers get to hear a story. At the end of the day everybody leaves fulfilled, if sometimes only somewhat. At the end of the day, everybody has value. I feel that stepping away from the personal story of Eddie and saying the film’s meaning lies in a grand allusion to human nature and governing principles is a little far-fetched. But the case could be made.
You could take the both the previous meanings and spin it around if you’d like and say that this really is about the exploitation of everybody and everything and that is just so so very terrible. I don’t have much feeling for this meaning, but the fact of the matter is people can always find the opposite meaning that you found in something. Meaning is subjective and ‘facts’ can always be spun around to fit your meaning.
The meaning will always depend on who you are as a person… and that’s okay.
At The End of The Day
Ultimately, Hail, Caesar! was an oddly brief story. Withe brief appearances with a ridiculous amount of big name actors, a brief story line, and an abrupt beginning and ending this movie is more like a short story or a sketch than a feature-length film. That may have been the Coen Brothers intent… Regardless, the film was not the best thing I’ve ever seen. The shallowness and abruptness really get in the way of enjoying the movie. You walk away a little confused about what you just watched.
Honestly, I don’t know what to say.
The official trailer for Hail, Caesar!