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Rated 3.01 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Back to the Fifties
by Betty Jo Tucker

Love, marriage, children and movies -- not necessarily in that order -- were the most important things in my life during the 1950s. My husband and I even named our children after film stars. And we were convinced that the drive-in theater represented one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. We looked forward to a double feature each week at the Mesa or Lake Drive-In. And what a marvelous decade it was for movie fans! That’s why Hail, Caesar! zoomed to the top of my “must-see” list for 2016. Watching the previews, I became very eager to check out this Coen Brothers offering because it looked like a film about making movies during the fifties. And what a cast! Just look at this list: George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes.

An epic and a musical,

a comedy -- but that’s not all.

A Western and a drama too,

Hail, Caesar! tries so hard to do.


It takes us back to fifties flicks.

In many scenes it really clicks.

But plot is thin as it can be

and jumps around too hastily.


Channing Tatum’s dance just shines!

Gene Kelly’s work he surely mines.

George Clooney gets most of the laughs

as an actor a group kidnaps.


Josh Brolin’s character looms large.

Keeping stars in line, his charge.

And yet I wanted so much more

from the Coen Brothers I adore.


Hail, Caesar! shows what lengths a Hollywood studio would go to in order to manage their stars and the publicity about them. The film follows Eddie Mannix (Brolin), the fixer for Capitol Pictures -- a company with numerous movies in production. Mannix must help DeeAnn Moran (Johansson), an actress who hates wearing a mermaid tail in her water extravaganza scenes (think Esther Williams), but more importantly needs assistance regarding a child out of wedlock. He must also find out who kidnapped the studio’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), right off the set of Capitol’s most expensive Roman epic. And he has to make sure singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (the appealing Alden Ehreneich) gets along with super sophisticated director Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes). To top things off, Mannix is faced with the challenge of distracting twin sisters (Swinton) who both write gossip columns and with a clumsy film editor (McDormand). Plus, there’s the strange business with song-and-dance man Burt Gurney (Tatum) and all those communist writers. No wonder Mannix gets tempted when offered a much easier job. Will he take it?

I was expecting something like Singin’ in the Rain (1952), so Hail, Caesar! ended up as a disappointment for me. Although the movie includes many funny scenes, the story seems jumbled and comes across as a bit lifeless at times. Still, the time sensitive cinematography by Roger Deakins (Prisoners) and Jess Goncher’s (The Devil Wears Prada) production design as well as the enjoyable music by Carter Burwell (Carol) and all the watchable performances make this Coen Brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) movie worth seeing.    

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some suggestive content and smoking.)

For more information about Hail, Caesar! go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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