Hail, Caesar! (2016) – reviewed by George

It’s the 1950s, and Capitol Pictures is shooting “Hail, Caesar: A Tale of the Christ”. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has the starring role as a Roman general. He is drugged and kidnapped right off the set. Capitol is also starting shooting on “Merrily We Dance”, snd the first choice for lead actor is drying out at Cedars, so a male lead is needed, like NOW, and Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is pulled off his B-Western, where he was doing some remarkable stunts, and sent to the set looking vary different in a tux. Director Lawrence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) tries hard, but he can’t seem to stop using words like “rueful” to explain motivation. We already know Hobie can ride like hell, but he can’t act his way through a door – in either direction. AND Capitol is shooting “Jonah’s Daughter”, the latest water ballet-swimming spectacle starring Deeanna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), but she is pregnant and won’t fit into her mermaid fishtail another day. She is also single.
All of these disasters must be solved by the studio head Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). With all these problems he is listening more seriously to Lockheed, which wants him for ten years, after which he will have made so much money he can retire still young (ish). The real problem with the Lockheed rep is that he just keeps putting down the picture business, using words like “frivolous”, and saying things like, “Soon everyone will have a TV. What’ll you do then?”
The kidnappers demand $100,000 from Mannix, and as he leaves to get it, he is ambushed by columnist Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton), who wants inside info and says if he doesn’t give it to her she will print her Baird Whitlock story “On Wings as Eagles” (one of Baird’s first films). Mannix says, “Old news. Hold off a day, and I’ll get you an interview with Baird, and for today here’s a story no one has got yet: Hobie Doyle and Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio) are dating and are very serious.” He picks up the cash in a briefcase that is too small, and starts out again, only to be ambushed by columnist Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), Thora’s twin. She wants details on Baird, and Mannix says again, “Old news”, and Thessaly replies, “Old news? He just disappeared from the set today.”
Mannix hides the briefcase as instructed – behind the electrical box on Stage Eight, where Capitol’s latest Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) musical is filming. Channing gets to do an elaborate song-and-tap sequence, but not as elaborate as the plot of this picture. which was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Stay alert and you can pick out Wayne Knight, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, Fisher Stevens, David Krumholtz, Robert Picardo, Dolph Lundgren, and Allison Pill as Mrs. Mannix. Narration at the beginning is by Michael Gambon.
I just read two other reviews of this film (I never read other people’s reviews until mine is done) and found Eddie Mannix called a Hollywood fixer. That’s just ridiculous. He watches dailies, he gets reports on progress of all current productions, he decides who from the religious community should be invited to participate in an approval meeting on the script for “Hail Caesar”, and he conducts that meeting, he calls New York to discuss start-ups and casting problems, and he takes the New York order to put Hobie into “Merrily We Dance”. That’s a studio head, not a fixer! Yeah, he does the fixing, but he’s still head of the studio.

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