Hail, Caesar! (Film Review)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

A phrase you often encounter when reading reviews of bad movies is “it has no plot.” When you hear that, you probably think, nothing happens in this movie. Well, that’s not necessarily true. A movie can have no plot, and still have lots of stuff happen in it. To have no plot, it just has to lack a single MAIN story. And what I mean by a main story is a single protagonist, with a clear goal, going up against various obstacles, experiencing a climax, and then changing as a result of all that they have gone through. John McLane fighting Hans Gruber and the other terrorists to save his wife in Die Hard, Martin Brody protecting Amity Island and his family from the Shark in Jaws, Indiana Jones racing against the Nazis to recover the ark in Raiders Of The Lost Ark–these are all perfect examples of films with main stories. They have beginnings, middles, and ends. They don’t have an excessive amount of sub-plots and supporting characters to distract us from the Main story, which is the protagonist with his or her goal, going up against an obstacle, ultimately achieving their objective, and becoming a better person as a result.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing all this up. Simple, the subject of today’s review, Hail, Caesar, the latest film written and directed by the Coen Brothers, has no plot. There’s no main story. Just sub-plots. No one goes up against any extreme obstacles, experiences any climaxes, or changes as a result of all that they’ve gone through. Now, to be fair, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’ve read my review for Wong Kar-Wai’s Days Of Being Wild, you know that I still enjoyed the film, despite it having no real plot. The acting, cinematography, color scheme, soundtrack, and most importantly, its emotional resonance all made the film enjoyable and touching. They made it worth watching. Hail, Caesar also has characteristics that make it worth watching–some beautiful sets and period costumes, some funny dialogue, a rich supporting cast–but, in the end, these things don’t make the film good. They’re just salt to cover up bland food.

For those of you who want to know what, exactly, I’m talking about, Hail, Caesar is set in the 1950s, in California. The main character, Josh Brolin, is the studio head for Capital Pictures. He is a man with a million things on his plate, and yet, somehow, he always manages to find time to go to Church and give confession. Now, the movie’s been advertised as a kidnapper comedy, with George Clooney being the dim-witted star who’s been mysteriously taken from the set of his latest feature, but that’s not really what the picture is about. It’s about the movies made back in the 1950s. There are several, rather lengthy, segments in this film where we just cut to various sound stages where different movies are being shot. These include a Western chase scene, a Gene Kelly style musical number, and a big water aerobics act. These segments have nothing to do with the kidnapper plot, and are really only there to paint a picture for us of what movies were like back in the day. Yes, they’re well-crafted, and relatively entertaining, but they have no purpose. This makes them distracting, and, ultimately, annoying. In addition to having all these cutaways, the film doesn’t really spend all that much time on the kidnapper story. We spend at least two thirds of the movie with a guy named Hogey Carmichael, a cowboy who can’t act, trying to act in a dramatic film, and failing miserably. And when we do return to the kidnaper plot, it’s not interesting. The Big Lebowski, another Coen Brothers Film dealing with kidnapping that I actually like, is able to keep the audience’s interest because it keeps us guessing the whole time. We don’t know, until the very end, whether or not the person who was kidnapped actually got kidnapped. The protagonist gets a severed toe in the mail, and a group of men actually come by his house and threaten to castrate him if he doesn’t pay. All of this creates genuine stakes. We believe that someone really could get hurt in all this, which makes the story as a whole more interesting. In Hail, Caesar, by contrast, we see who the kidnappers are very early on in the story, and we know that they have no intention of hurting Clooney. This causes any semblance of tension that was in the film beforehand to just vanish, and leaves us with far less interesting storylines, like will Hogey Carmichael learn how to act, will Scarlet Johansen find a father for her baby, and will Josh Brolin leave the movie business and go to work for Lockheed Martin?

All I can say is that, if you want to go to the movies and be mildly entertained for a few hours, and all while knowing that nothing you just saw will stick or resonate with you afterwards, go see Hail, Caesar. As for me, however, and it truly pains me to say this because I love the Coen Brothers, this is just a 5 out of 10. Apart from the acting and the period decor, I can’t think of anything that makes this movie worth my time or money.

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