“Hail Coens!” Hail, Caesar review


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By Rob Stoakes

RUN! RUN! THE END TIMES ARE NEAR! IT’S A COEN BROTHERS MOVIE WITHOUT JOHN GOODMAN! AAAAAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

That’s how much I love the Coen Brothers; I’m willing to open my review, my first impression to you all, with a joke you will only understand if you’ve literally buried yourself in Blood Simple DVDs.

The two brothers are easily two of my favourite directors and writers of all time. Let’s just name some films; A Serious Man, Fargo, Raising Arizona, No Country for Old Men, Bridge of Spies, Inside Llewyn Davis, goddamn The godamn Big goddamn Lebowski! Keep your Steven Spielberg, to me the Coen Brothers are almost beyond praise, more the fearful reverence and awe that ancient folk worshipped their deities.

Ok, there was Gambit, but we don’t talk about that.

And because the universe is only sometimes just and fair (looking at you, Oscar snubs for Creed and Concussion) Joel and Ethan actually are as beloved by the world as they deserve to be, despite logic dictating that they really shouldn’t be. Their movies are paced like snails high on pot brownies, their films only end when they feel like it and when they do end it’s usually at best with a shrug.

That should be box office and critical poison, but people eat it up. They’re big draws at the box office and on the film circuit scene and they are lauded by their peers as geniuses. But even these two groups don’t love the Coen Brothers quite like drunk film students, and so, as thanks to them, the Coen Brothers decided to do about half of their homework and release Hail, Caeser, possibly the most film-y film of all time.

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George Clooney. Photo by Universal Pictures.

I mean, you have to be a huge Hollywood nerd to even understand half of the in-jokes. The filming style, the painted sets and all of the homages to different genres are swimming in 50’s Hollywood styles, and it allows the Coens to show off just how versatile they are, but then there’s the obscure stuff. All of the writers turning out to be Communists, the executive who comes from an unknown industry that is financially crushing film, the constant manipulation of people’s private lives by the studios, this is basically your A Level film studies exam on the Death of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Even the characters are blatently based on real people; Hobie Doyle is Roy Rogers, DeeAnna Moray is Esther Williams in disguise, and Hedda Hopper is so easy to knock that she gets two expies. I’m not saying you’ll need to recite all of Fritz Lang’s filmography upon demand to enjoy Hail, Caeser, far from it, but a lot of the humour might go over your head if you think The Bicycle Thieves is a Madchester band.

Asides of accessibility problems, there is very little to complain about the script and the plot, and the same is true of the acting. Ralph Fienes, Tilda Swindon and Channing Tatum are hilarious stand-outs and Josh Brolin is great as the disapproving daddy figure who has to deal with the idiocy of the film stars he has to keep dealing with, but I think special mention must go to George Clooney.

Usually, he’s content to be generically and boringly charming, or the worst Batman ever. Here, he finally shows off some range, and crafts comedy gold both as the overtop Charlton Heston character and as the idiotic prima donna real life Charlton Heston. It’s a genuine career highlight for him, and considering how long he’s been in the game that’s quite impressive.

Still, as good as the actors are, this is still the Coen Brothers’ film, as they take the opportunity to show off. It says a lot that for a film that imitates so many others, this is still a film only they could have made, and it is already a top contender for a year best as far as I’m concerned. Hail Coens!

… though this still doesn’t make up for Gambit.

Category Scoring out of 5 ⭐
Story/Plot ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Acting/Vocal Performance ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Special Effects/Cinematography ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Soundtrack ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Costume/Film Design ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Script/Dialogue ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
OVERALL RATING ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2

 

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