Hail to the Coen Brothers


After seeing Hail, Caesar! last night, it felt as if I had been at a diner with infinite coffee refills. This happens to me at the movie theater occasionally, but there are elements to this film that increased the buzz level. Below are my underdeveloped thoughts on the latest from the beloved brothers Coen.


You see some things you wouldn’t necessarily expect from them.

This movie had the power-walking pace and energy just short of Birdman. For the premise centering around the movie business (which is a whole other meta conversation) the pace was like a rolling reel of film. Steady and pulsing but not frantic.

In true Coen style, the supporting cast had an element of cartoon-like, exaggerated physical mannerisms. This gives a one-note feel to each character but in a charming, un-cheesy way. Think O Brother with Clooney’s eyes bugging and brow lifted. How this plays itself out in this particular movie: Eddie Mannix, the main character, is the only one without these overdone mannerisms, thus making him appear more relatable to the the audience by contrast.

Their nihilism was subdued; an undercurrent wrapped in whimsical packaging. It’s a relief to those prone to feeling dragged down by an overly dysthymic, cynical message without being uncharacteristic of the Coens’ artistic voice. For example, [SPOILER] when the briefcase full of ransom money falls into the ocean it renders all of the work of the communists meaningless to that point. It also makes them look hypocritical as they hand over the money to their leader rather than leaving it to themselves, the “common” man.

There are lots of things left to chew on.

The studio has an overbearing statue of a man cut down the middle with two sections several feet apart. This appears in the background a few times and is drastically larger than anything else surrounding it, forcing you to notice it. The statue seems to represent the dialectic arguments the communist group presents: the head being the capitalist money-mongers and the legs being the workers. Mannix is the only one who seems to be whole. He works hard with long hours and is also in a position of authority, with wealth to boot. He’s even offered more money for less work and refuses it.

I’m left with these questions:

What were the Coens trying to say about Mannix? He is a moral, almost Christ-like figure (all the while discussing Christ and going to confession – more meta stuff) whose only weakness appears to be an affinity for nicotine. Even the priest is frustrated with his weak list of sins and compulsive confessions. As mentioned above, he is cohesive in his authority and integrity. Is this supposed to create a humanist, make-yourself-your-savior mentality?

The actors are portrayed as hapless lumps of clay at times. Is this a joke that the real-life actors are in on? I doubt the Coens are trying to demean the very people bringing their ideas to life. Or is it simply another tactic in elevating Mannix?

Go see it. And let me know what you think.