Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

Hail Caesar

The Coens are amazingly prolific; they make movies the way other people write songs- and there always seems to be a new one in the offing. Some of the movies are better than others, but they're all Coeny- by which I mean a good deal larger than life, playful, comedic and with elements of the downright peculiar. I suspect that when the roll is finally called the whole will seem greater than the sum of its parts- but there are certainly masterpieces in the mix. I think Fargo is one and The Big Lebowski another and No Country for Old Men a third. I haven't seen everything. I mean I can't keep up; they put these things out there faster than I can watch them.

Hail Caesar is a relatively minor addition to the catalogue- a more than usually preposterous concoction- lightweight- delightfully so- and a sort of love letter to the Hollywood studio system c. 1950. Josh Brolin plays studio boss Eddie Mannix- and we follow him through 48 sleepless hours- sorting out crises as they arise (as they do rather a lot) and contemplating a move from his role as circus ringmaster to a "proper job" with Lockheed. This structure allows for a lot of juicy big name cameos- Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton- and some affectionately naughty movie parodies- including a Kellyesque dance sequence  which wears its gay subtext like a blazon.  Mannix is an oddly innocent person- as Coen heroes generally are- given to slapping film stars around when they step out of line and checking in daily with his confessor to own up to sneaking the odd cigarette when he's supposed to have given up- and Brolin- who seems to be able to play any character- as long as he's over six foot tall- gives what would otherwise be a floofy series of variety turns a  spine of moral seriousness.
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