Hail, Caesar! is a comedic expose of a collection of humans whose daily fortunes and talent are entwined in the complexities of Hollywood's movie industry in the 1950s. With hints of Woody Allen's Radio Days combined with big dance numbers reminiscent of The Producers and the classic Million Dollar Mermaid. Scenes within scenes and cascading predicaments, Hail, Caesar! touches on some major themes that did effect the movie industry in the 1950s including suspected communist activity, threat of blocked funds, the pressure of declining attendances at movies and the changes brought about the nascent television industry. The multi-layered plot includes confessionals, a blockbuster bible tribute, lies, temptations, abduction and dialogue about freedom, promises, faith and ideals.
Tonight at Phoenix Picturehouse, the laughing moviegoers, the majority cult followers of the highly successful filmmaker duo, Joel and Ethan Coen, came to have their fill of this latest 'idiot genre' fun flick. It is all a little crazy, eccentric even absurd with a hint of Marx Brother's comedic style in scenes between characters. Highlights include the unfolding of the gentlest kidnapping of drugged Roman attired George Clooney, and studio boss Eddie Mannix's (Josh Brolin) desperate attempts to try to assess his options to keep Capitol Studies, and his life, afloat. The big surprise is newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, who plays cowboy star Hobie Doyle. If this cowboy's athleticism and guitar serenading doesn't move you earlier in the film, then his charm and charisma, especially lassoing a strand of spaghetti to impress his escort, definitely will.
Costume designer (Mary Zophres) who has worked on twelve Coen films, deserves an award. The classic costumes are stunning and so reminiscent of the Hollywood studios of the 1950s. This is possibly another reason why the movie appeals to a mixed age audience. All those childhood memories both black and white and then technicolour are still drawing audiences to the big screen following on from the obsession with YouTube clips that relive the movie star glitter and style of that era.
This movie is for anyone wishing to be transported in time. Exquisitely fashioned, musically toe-tapping, this quirky expose may well have revisits. For the opportunity to immerse yourself in the dance numbers both aquatic and bar room or just to rekindle the many sparks missed the first time, it will likely require another re-take. To quote Shakespeare's Julius Caesar 'The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks,' (III.i.58–65) much like Hail, Caesar!