Hail, Cesar!

Year: 2016
Production Co: Dentsu
Studio: Universal
Director: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
Producer: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen/Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner
Writer: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Clancy Brown, Fisher Stevens, Robert Picardo, Wayne Knight

Having never been a huge Coen brothers fan I've never seen exactly what people love so much about The Big Lebowski, nor did I really understand why critics hated The Ladykillers so much.

And I certainly can't understand what everyone loved about Hail, Cesar! There are a few funny lines and very good characters played by very good actors, but the story is a loose collection of barely connected threads, none of them really going anywhere or amounting to anything, all very disjointed and rudderless, several plotlines descending to levels of near-stupidity.

The A list Hollywood actor who's really a Soviet spy rowing out to meet a submarine in the middle of the night to defect to his true homeland might have been funny in any other movie (maybe even this one), but here it falls flat.

The whole story is held (barely) together by Capitol Studios fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin – the second actor to play the real guy after Bob Hoskins' role in Hollywoodland). He spends days, and mostly nights, getting big stars out of trouble and keeping their exploits out of the media.

In the course of a couple of days we see him; orchestrate the casting of a loveable actor of Westerns into a romantic melodrama made by prickly Shakespearian director (Ralph Fiennes) ; fend off twin sister gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton) hoping for the same scoops; bring pregnant musical star DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) into line; and patronise the services of a shady, officious lawyer (Jonah Hill) he sometimes uses to smooth out the legal chinks in any number of matters that might turn scandalous.

But it's all background to the current crisis, the disappearance of matinee idol and confirmed idiot Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who's been kidnapped by a cadre of communists and held hostage at a beach house where their intellectual debate starts to prompt a change of mind in him.

There's too much going on, not enough of it is funny enough, and while it's fun to see such a distinctive period as postwar Hollywood done so well, it needs a far more solid story under it.

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