Hail, Caesar! – 5 stars

Barton Fink had the Coen Brothers delving into the dark heart of old Hollywood as it crushed the dreams, condescension and verve of the working man’s playwright. The result was a dark and sometimes terrifying comedy that revealed the old film business as an industrial behemoth, plowing over the souls of artists. It is a dour, unpleasant movie, and ironically, so arty and showy that you long for the simplistic Wallace Beery wrestling picture that plagues its protagonist.

It appears the Coen Brothers have lightened up considerably. Hail, Caesar! is a breezy, clever and light love letter to old Hollywood. The studio chief (Josh Brolin) is being wooed by corporate America, and the man sent to Tinseltown to lure him away can’t help but take jabs at the frivolity of Brolin’s work. Indeed, between staging marriages to deal with the unplanned pregnancy of a star (Scarlett Johansson), matchmaking stars to feed to the gossip columnists, squelching rumors about his Clark Gable-esque A lister (George Clooney) and saving that same commodity from kidnappers, it all seems pretty silly. But it is not. It is, as presented by the Coen Brothers, noble work.

This light romp is made glorious by several masterful recreations of old Hollywood scenes, from the massive scale of period pieces to cowboy antics to jaw-dropping swim and song-and-dance numbers. The detail is lovingly rendered, and the humor is always there. This is one of their better films. It prompted Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post to rank her Coen Brothers films, a list that is in many ways beyond stupid. Here is mine:

 

  1. Fargo
  2. No Country for Old Men
  3. The Big Lebowski
  4. True Grit
  5. Inside Llewyn Davis
  6. Burn After Reading
  7. Miller’s Crossing
  8. Hail, Caesar
  9. Raising Arizona
  10. Oh Brother Where Art Thou
  11. Blood Simple
  12. Intolerable Cruelty
  13. Barton Fink
  14. The Hudsucker Proxy
  15. The Man Who Wasn’t There
  16. A Serious Man

**. The Ladykillers (never saw it)

 

 

 

 

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