[Review] Hail, Caesar! (2016) – Forgive me father for I have sinned

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cast:  Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

The show must go on, comrade!

Here is a little jewel brought by the Coen brothers, tackling the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the vein of “Tropic Thunder”, “Hail, Caesar” is a savory satire on the ways in which the men and women who worked in the big studios catered to every whim of their glitz and glamour workers.

It features a star-stunned cast put into what looks like their would-be counterparts of the ’50s. You have the lead man, the vain actor who’s the main character in a “Ben-Hur” style epic sand and sandles flick, you get the dashing hot actor in a “Singing in the rain” act, the actress with booze and spousal problems and of course, we get the decade’s obsession with the communists. It’s all done in a way in which get a glimpse on the past with a dark echo of the future.

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The studios obsession to control not only what the spectators get in terms of entertainment but meddling in the lives of their cast and crew are tossed around in a tongue and check fashion, sprinkled with the tabloid reporters chasing a hot topic.

Here’s the deal with “Hail, Caesar”: it delivers a punch in the gut of studio entertainment which follows the same formula as they did in the past. The sand and sandles pictures which showcased the opulence and vanity of the days are still here. The crowds are now targeted through their social media likes and the execs deliver. The stars are most of the times flawed individuals who are made shinny and bright by the men and women who foster every second of their lives. Couples are made and unmade because the news sells, the shady past of some actors, their exploits in some not so savory movies is hidden with a vigor which would make the Mafia seem like a choir group and the political and social obsession are made a mockery of what they truly are.

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“Hail, Caesar!” takes a peak, a gentle yet ironic peak at the ways in which the entertainment business functions. The fact that we buy the product and we chose to let ourselves be fooled by the marketing machine achieves its goal. No one is perfect and everyone we admire in a movie is a crazy game of smoke, mirrors and deception. When Ralph Fiennes character, an euro-trash artsy director ends up substituting the voice of a hillbilly actor with looks but no talent, it’s not something we haven’t learned before in one way or another. It’s all connected.

Getting back to the Coen brothers and the cast, each actor gets a savory moment. From Clooney working through and epic speech, to Johansson being the difficult starlet but I get my laughs with Channing Tatum playing a hunk actor in the vein of today’s let’s say Zac Efron while sporting an obsession towards the communism. While the cast lifts the script as much as their craft allows it, the movie gives a feeling of not being complete and muddles through the story-line sometimes but it’s here to stay as a clever, sassy depiction of Hollywood.

Edge and Back: 7,5/10

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