From Raising Arizona to Fargo to No Country for Old Men, the Cohen Brothers have developed both an eclectic and polarizing film arsenal. Love them or hate them, Hail, Caesar! is another entry in the Joel and Ethan canon as well as the conclusion to the George Clooney-Cohen trilogy (O Brother Where Art Thou and Intolerable Cruelty being the other 2).
In all honesty, the Cohen Brothers’ productions are not really mainstream. On such a note (and despite an all-star cast including George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Scarlet Johansson, Jonah Hill, and many others), Hail, Caesar! is included as a cinephile, not a mainstream, film.
Caesar is a movie about making movies, along the lines of Singing in the Rain. Throughout the film, 5 movies are shown in production paying homage to classic genres of the 1940s and 50s (musical westerns, choreographed-instrumental swimming scenes, sailor tap-dancing numbers, and the Biblical Epic – like The Robe or Ben-Hur).
While paying homage, the Cohens also create a slick satire serving as a commentary upon the Hollywood culture and lifestyle. While the films are patriotic, wholesome, and family-centered, the cast and crew’s lifestyle do not reflect such ideals. The young are tempted towards promiscuity, the middle-aged persuaded by naïve communistic rhetoric, all the while serving as a public relations nightmare for the producers trying to sell a film as moral and ethical entertainment to a society who desires the actors and actresses to live a life which exemplifies a realization of such purity. The plot holding this mess together: a kidnapping of a lead actor.
Along with A Serious Man, Hail, Caesar has a semi-religious/Biblical undertone which may take some viewers by surprise (for example, the identity of Jesus as the Son of the One True God is clearly stated more than once, and salvation of sins by grace is clearly presented multiple times).
In regards to the humor, there are plenty of elements of hilarity. However, if one is not familiar with the film references, the humor may seem off-put, odd, and unevenly placed. For a film nut, Caesar is pure gold (though does not require the benefit of a large-screen format).
All-in-all, I highly recommend the film…especially for film lovers, and give it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Please keep in mind, this film is not geared towards the casual moviegoer.