By Tristan Davis – Features Editor
It’s not often we are treated to a Coen brothers’ production, and the long-awaited premiere of “Hail, Caesar!” had great expectations. Coming off of the Academy Award-nominated drama “Inside Llewyn Davis,” in 2013, the Coens ventured further back in time to 1950s Hollywood, where a ma- jor actor has suddenly gone missing.
The film centers around the hectic life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood production manager and “fixer” employed by one of the country’s top movie distribution compa- nies. The latest project, titled “Hail, Caesar!,” stars one of Hollywood’s biggest names, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney).
When Whitlock is kidnapped by a mysterious organization called “The Future,” Mannix faces his toughest task in finding the missing movie star, while simultaneously keeping his other actors in a positive public light. DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is impreg- nated out of wedlock while working on her latest film, dropping yet another issue on Mannix’s plate. Not to mention the recent hiring of singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), an actor whose thick Western accent gets on the last nerve of film director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).
I’ll start with the good. The writing was tremendous, which is something typical of a Coen brothers’ movie. Dialogue is quick-witted yet believable, and the various accents used by the main characters are hit to perfection. I’m also praying that the Coens continue to work with Ehrenreich, whose performance stood out to be the film’s very best, even alongside the likes of Brolin and Fiennes. The cinematography was also impressive, featuring authentic snapshots of 1950s Los Angeles. Movie sets were detailed and colorful, which truly committed to the theme of the “film within a film.”
The film’s major issue was the overuse of plot lines. I sat there following each character’s story expecting everything to come together, but by the end of the film it’s almost as if we’ve watched three different movies; one about Mannix’s dilemma and troubles with the wife, one about Doyle’s difficult day on set, and one about Moran’s sudden pregnancy. Not to say that the viewer isn’t kept invested in all three, but the Coen reputation has spoiled me to expect the best with every film they put out. A Jonah Hill cameo came off as unnecessary and gimmicky, the very opposite of the effect it had in 2012’s “Django Unchained.”
I have a feeling this film will still be seen as one of the year’s best,but pales in comparison to some of the Coen’s other work. It’s no “Barton Fink” or “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but it works on several levels and left Coen brothers’ fans satisfied and smiling.