Hail, Caesar (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 105 minutes.
OK for children.
This look at
Hollywood in 1951 has lots of homages to Hollywood history. There are
references to Esther Williams (an unnamed character played by
foul-mouthed Scarlett Johansson) and Busby Berkeley choreography and
Loretta Young and the baby she denied (Judy), Hedda Hopper (a shrewish
Tilda Swinton), a singing cowboy who canít act (take your pick) named
Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), the Hollywood Ten, and Eddie Mannix
(Josh Brolin), among many others.
In fact, as to the
latter two, the Hollywood Ten and Eddie Mannix, they arenít just
references; they are what the movie is about. It even uses his real
name, which is interesting in that they donít use any other real names.
Mannix was MGMís quintessential fixer. If some star got in trouble,
Eddie (Josh Brolin, who even looks a little like the real Eddie) fixed
it, no matter what was required. He was even rumored to have been
involved in the death of George Reeves, TVís Superman, who was alleged
to have killed himself, but there have been as many rumors about the
actual facts of his death as there are about who really wrote
Joel and Ethan Coen
wrote, produced, and directed this and they did a superb job, at least
at capturing the ambience of the era and creating a light hearted,
comedic touch to the film. Itís not uproariously funny, but it has its
moments. The best of the film are the production values and the
recreation of Hollywood circa 1951.
Even though this is
an obvious parody, it is an astonishing film to come out of todayís
Hollywood because it actually shows a group of writers who admit that
they are Communists and that they used art as a weapon in accordance
with Stalinís directives (as alleged by the House Un-American Activities
Committee), and that they were taking their orders directly from Russia.
The victim is Baird
Whitlock (George Clooney, no less), who is starring in a Roman saga and
is kidnapped by the Commie writers. Mannix is trying to find him to wrap
the movie. The film takes it from there.