Written by Yosra Osman

Arts

Review: Hail, Caesar!

A tap-dancing Channing Tatum charms Yosra Osman in the Coen brothers’ typically absurd homage to Hollywood’s golden age.

Channing Tatum shows off more of his talents as the twinkle-toed Burt Gurney. Photos: Universal.

Magic Mike‘s Channing Tatum shows off more of his talents as the twinkle-toed Burt Gurney. Photos: Universal.

Much like their early 90s Hollywood-set comedy Barton Fink, the Coen brothers’ latest, Hail, Caesar! is a film about making films. It also shares the element of having a pretty miserable protagonist. Those sadistic Coens.

Hail, Caesar! seems to suggest that film production is a lot like babysitting. Josh Brolin plays production executive and ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix, who over the course of the film has to deal with kidnapped movie stars, pregnant leading ladies and sibling journalists fighting over news stories. Such a hard knock life is presented in farcical terms, albeit with peculiar undertones of melancholy. This is part of what makes Hail, Caesar! so enjoyably watchable.

Despite the difficulties of keeping Hollywood in check, there’s plenty in Hail, Caesar that evokes the charm and appeal of post-war Tinseltown, including several fantastic film-within-film scenes depicting the magic of 1950s Hollywood.

In particular, the scene with Channing Tatum tap dancing in a South Pacific-like musical number is brilliantly done and could easily compare to the exuberant dance scenes from post-war musicals. I mean, we all know Channing Tatum can move (and grind like nobody’s business à la Magic Mike), but who knew he could tap dance? Such talented feet.

Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) finds himself overdressed for the occasion.

Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) finds himself overdressed for the occasion.

Most of my enjoyment of Hail, Caesar! came from the performances, which are both tongue-in-cheek but oddly solemn. With an impressive cast list including George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had, notably from the wittily enjoyable dialogue.

For me, the real standout is relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, who plays innocent, good-hearted country boy Hobie Doyle. Simple he seems at first, but he’s probably one of the more nuanced characters, and the most gratifying to watch. We can only hope Alden’s real-life encounters with Hollywood treat him better than those of good ol’ Hobie.

In typical Coen brothers fashion, Hail, Caesar! is stylistically impressive. The film sequences are ravishing and you get a real feel for 1950s Hollywood. This love letter to movie-making’s golden age may get pretty absurd, but that’s all part of the grand design. What makes the film successful is that such farce mixes well with the more sinister connotations, successfully avoiding what could, frankly, have become one big mess. Although not the best of the Coens’ works, it’s really good fun to watch.

@yozzie_osman

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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions