Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johannson, George Clooney
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 22nd February 2016 on Letterboxd.
The Coen Brothers’ latest follows a series of largely unlikeable characters dealing with extortion and kidnapping in 1950s Hollywood. Whether the decision to shun narrative sense in favour of multiple, unwelcome tangents was deliberate or not, the films’ main suffering is that it is a structurally unsound disaster. This digressive approach to telling such a basic story means that the cast has to be able to carry the weight of it all, and when said cast is full of such nondescript characters wandering through literal set-piece after set-piece, it all results in a hugely unsatisfying ode to the last decade of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’.
Speaking of the cast: a whole lot of them were simply not needed. Why Frances McDormand as the sunlight-averse editor?, Wayne Knight as ‘Lurking Extra #1’?, Christopher Lambert as the director of a film-within-a-film?, or the entire cast of Communist Writers? Its ensemble is made up of industry friends and associates, serving as a distracting series of haughty nods and winks that waste valuable time and grinds the already sluggish pacing to a halt. It wouldn’t have been so boring had these cameos actually been funny or well-rounded, but it joins Burn After Reading and Intolerable Cruelty as one of the least entertaining or amusing Coen films.
Hail, Caesar! is self-indulgent, meandering and all too infrequently amusing (the “Would that it were so simple?” moment being the crowning, trailer-spoiled achievement, as was the redundant but enjoyable Channing Tatum dance number) and is as narcissistic as it can get. Here’s hoping the Coens’ next feature drops the broadly farcical humour for something a little more nuanced and miserable