"Hail, Caesar!" is written and directed by the Coen Brothers and it stars Josh Brolin as a Hollywood "Fixer", someone who basically keeps things in line during the production of a movie. Once a major movie star played by George Clooney goes missing under mysterious circumstances, it's up to Brolin to find him and ensure his safety.
For me, the Coen Brothers are generally hit and miss. They've made great films like "No Country for Old Men" and "The Big Lebowski", and they've also made movies I personally couldn't get into like "True Grit" and "Burn After Reading". But for the mixed mag of movies they have, you can always guarantee a unique cinematic experience with their films. They do the style they want without letting anyone get in their way, bizarre as their movies can be sometimes. "Hail, Caesar!" is definitely unique, it's definitely, bizarre, but it's actually a Coen Brothers movie I ended up enjoying.
First off, Josh Brolin shines as Hollywood "fixer", Eddie Mannix. His role is very reminiscent of one of those old time, fast talking detectives you see in a parody of the 50's and as weird as it is, it works for this movie and Brolin does a great job. The other big star in this movie is pretty much just George Clooney. (more on the rest of the cast later) Clooney was also good as the major Hollywood star put in the center of a mysterious set of events and his character also serves the film's purpose of getting the plot rolling. Both Brolin and Clooney were very good in their roles, but that brings me to the rest of the cast, or in this case, cameos.
One of the things I really wanted to see in this movie was how the talented cast was utilized for the story. As it turns out, the vast amount of stars creates some problems for the film's narrative. The performances are all solid, don't get me wrong, but the characters themselves have their own little side stories that don't fit in with the overall story and it ruins the cohesiveness of the movie. Scarlett Johansson has her own story, Channing Tatum has a really entertaining, albeit pointless song and dance routine, and and other actors such as Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand have only one scene in the entire movie, all of these little stories feeling like pointless filler. It really was disappointing to see such a huge, talented cast reduced to side quests that feel like bonus missions in a video game.
I also feel that this movie suffered from being too much of a love letter to classic Hollywood film-making. The Coen Brothers obviously love the way movies and Hollywood were ran in the 50's and they wanted to show their passion for that in this movie, but you can only watch so much of it before it starts feeling beat over your head. Call me crazy, but I would've liked to have seen a bit more emphasis on this little thing called "story" rather than one giant circle-jerk of old school cinema. Granted, the movie looks great with the cinematography and production design, but I honestly felt like the look of the movie would've been fine without all of the dialogue constantly reminding us of awesome this time period was.
However, I can't deny that I was genuinely interested in how this story played out and I won't lie and say I wasn't invested most of the way through. The way things play out is undeniably unique and it makes for plenty of weird moments, though they are entertaining to watch and I actually got some good laughs from these scenes. For all of the narrative problems this movie has, it's plot does unfold in a watchable way that'll keep you at least slightly invested in what's going on.
Overall, "Hail, Caesar!" is a well acted movie with an interesting story that has plenty of funny and entertaining moments as well as having great production design, but the movie has its fair share of issues with the storytelling and I also feel it could've been a lot more subtle in how it praises and glorifies 1950's Hollywood to be the best age for cinema. Still, this is a fun time at the movies and I think that die hard Coen Bros. fans who love all of their movies will find a ton of things in this movie to relish over. It's weird, bizarre, and different, but that's what it wanted to be and for the most part, it did it's job.