Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
|Featuring:|| Josh Brolin … Eddie Mannix—a “fixer” who keeps actors’ scandals out of the press
Channing Tatum … Burt Gurney—an actor and one of Mannix’s clients
George Clooney … Baird Whitlock—a Kirk Douglas-type movie star
Scarlett Johansson … DeeAnna Moran—an Esther Williams-type actress
Jonah Hill … Joseph Silverman
Tilda Swinton … Thora Thacker / Thessaly Thacker
Ralph Fiennes … Laurence Lorenz—a film director
Dolph Lundgren … Submarine Commander
Clancy Brown … Communist Screenwriter
Frances McDormand … C. C. Calhoun—a film editor
David Krumholtz … Communist Screenwriter
Alison Pill … Mrs. Mannix
Alden Ehrenreich … Tobey—an actor and one of Mannix’s clients
|Producer:||Mike Zoss Productions
Working Title Films
“Lights. Camera. Abduction.”
Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are back with their latest film, “Hail, Caesar!”. Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, the “fixer” for the production company Capitol Pictures. Eddie’s job is no easy task. But when one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), goes missing, Eddie’s job becomes much more stressful and complicated. It does not end there, though. With the long work hours, Eddie is detained from his family, has a tough situation to handle with an actress, and just wants to get his production of “Hail, Caesar!” finally completed. Eddie is most certainly the man for the job, but pleasing Hollywood’s finest directors and stars leads to nothing but one problem after another.
“Hail Caesar!” is a welcome return from the Coen brothers after their depressing 2013 dramedy “Inside Llewyn Davis.” “Hail, Caesar!” has been marketed as a comedy, but has a similar tone to “Llewyn” yet not nearly as dark and dreary. It is a lighthearted Hollywood romp about the stresses of the entertainment industry and is more dramatic than it is comedic. The Coens provide strong direction (as always), the script is cleverly written, and the performances are charming and believable. The old-fashioned Hollywood tone adds a great touch to the film. Although the story gets a little messy and sidetracked with the sub-plots, it is still a very engaging nostalgic film from one of the best filmmaking duos in the industry today.
“Hail, Caesar!” may not be the best film made by the Coens, but it is certainly the cleanest. The film is a light PG-13, as there is some mild suggestive content, brief language, and quite a bit of smoking. Overall, though, the sexual content is fairly mild in “Hail, Caesar!”, especially when compared to most other Hollywood films today. Early in the film, a brief photoshoot takes place, and we see a woman wearing a suggestive, low cut milkmaid costume. There is also a swimming pool number while a film is being shot, and women are seen wearing modest swimsuits. However, one woman wears a formfitting mermaid costume that is also low cut. A character makes a reference to a “love nest,” and there is talk about a woman being pregnant out of wedlock. They are unsure of who the father is. There is mention of a character known for having his “afternoon trysts.” There is also a musical number involving male sailors dancing with one another. There is a slight implication of homosexuality, but since this film takes place in the 1950s, this act could go either way. After being drugged, a character says it was the first time he woke up without a woman next to him. The film also contains a few subtle and mild suggestive comments. Sodomy is briefly mentioned, and a bottom half of a statue is briefly seen with a leaf obscuring its privates.
The production of ”Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ” being filmed in the movie revolves around a fictional retelling of a Roman soldier’s encounter with Christ. However, the violence is very mild and sometimes a bit slapstick. During filming, we see some slaves from a distance being beaten and whipped by Roman soldiers (not graphic nor bloody), and we see a silhouette from behind of Jesus hanging on the cross. Blood is seen on His feet as a soldier approaches the cross. Both a man and woman get slapped once each, and a character gets her scarf caught in a film projector (played for laughs). There is mild Western gunplay during a filming sequence.
The language is mild to moderate, as there are only about four or five uses each of both d*mn and h*ll. B**ch is said once and a** is thrown in two or three times as well. A “Good lord” phrase pops up and a few mild insults like “cooc” and “crackpot” are said. Unfortunately, there is one abuse of Christ’s name (combined with the phrase “on a scooter”) and one more possible misuse drowned out during a musical number. The scene is very busy both musically and visually, so only the most observant viewer may catch this.
There are only a couple of instances of alcohol consumption, but there is frequent smoking by characters throughout which may be concerning to some viewers. Also, a character gets drugged and passes out after someone puts a powder in his drink. There is a brief reference to narcotics and a mention of “passing gas.” A character bribes other characters.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” —Isaiah 53:5
“Hail, Caesar!” is not really a spiritual journey, but the movie of the same title being shot in the film most certainly is. This has to be the Coen’s most spiritual film yet, as many questions about faith are asked, and there are positive nods to Christianity. A character visits a priest and confesses his sins. But he also seeks guidance and truth, and, later on, we hear of how Christ forgave our sins. The same man admits that he lied in the past and, to his credit, keeps trying to quit smoking. The Bible is viewed as a sacred Book, and the Gospel message is clearly conveyed by a Catholic priest. One scene involves a comedic theological debate, but it is tastefully done, as it is shared that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is love. A character says that “He [Jesus] saw sin and gave love” and that “God wants us to do what is right.” During filming, a character also says, “I saw the light of God”. He continues to say that Christ came to save and that He is the Truth. It is also said that our conscience comes from God.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” —Exodus 20:7 (ESV)
I was very surprised and refreshed by how mild the overall content was in “Hail, Caesar!”. It still has its problems, though, since there is some light suggestive material on display in addition to a harsh profanity and a plethora of smoking. However, I still recommend “Hail, Caesar!” for ages 12+ based on maturity. This film is definitely going to be one of the safest options when going to the theater. “Hail, Caesar!” isn’t completely inappropriate for kids, but I am sure most will be bored and not appreciate the nostalgia and story behind it anyway. There are also plenty of mature themes that children simply won’t understand, as well.
“Hail, Caesar!” is a well-crafted and entertaining film that is a great alternative for adult entertainment, this day and age. I, myself, appreciated the religious themes incorporated into the film, while God and the Bible are highly respected amongst characters. The film approaches how various religions perceive God, but the Gospel is certainly the front-runner in this story. “Hail, Caesar!” may ask more questions about faith than it gives answers, but when we near film’s end, our eyes are opened to the One who came down to Earth to pay the penalty for our sins. The One who gave us peace, joy, forgiveness, and love. Our Savior Jesus Christ.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild to Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…It’s possible that some religious viewers might be offended by the film-within-a-film giving occasion for a few situational jokes in a religious context, but it certainly isn’t done irreverently. And neither Communism nor capitalism is outright condemned by the film itself, which I suppose some people may find offensive.
—Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today
…A light-hearted dramedy about a good man working in Hollywood. …
—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
…Clooney has a blast adding Whitlock to the series of idiots he’s played for the Coens (‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’, ‘Intolerable Cruelty’). It’s blasphemous fun watching him blow his lines in a cathartic scene with a crucified Christ. …
—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
…Coen bros hit peak star-cameo in superb sister film to Barton Fink… “Hail, Caesar!” is a lot of fun, and beautifully crafted, too. One to savour. [4/4]
—Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
…The Coens have replaced the acid in their pens with honey, for now at least, and the result is an affectionate comedy that is also one of their most satisfying achievements. … [3½/4]
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers
…Coen brothers have a point to make, but fail in their purpose… The flair for black comedy and deadpan that the Coens displayed so delightfully in their early hits has somehow abandoned them. … [1/4]
—Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail
…a minor Coen Brothers comedy… a rare misfire for the writing-directing team… If you’re a Coen Brothers fan, “Hail, Caesar!” is worth a look. Just don’t expect their usual panache.
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…The Coen brothers’ latest film may not rank among their greatest, but it is an unexpectedly delightful celebration of the movies. …an unexpectedly sweet and utterly satisfying confection, a loving sendup of the Hollywood of yesteryear. …
—Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
…a love letter to Hollywood that doesn't quite hang together… There’s a lot going on in “Hail, Caesar!” and camera-bulb flashes of brilliance pop here and there. The Coens are in their woolly mode, riffing on their fondness for tall tales and outlandish, larger-than-life figures…
—Stephanie Zacharek, Time magazine
…“Hail, Caesar!” is a fizzy, fun farce… it is delightful.
—Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
…‘Hail, Caesar!’ isn’t a major Coen movie, but it’s super entertaining… There is much to savor… it’s a very enjoyable lark, especially for fans of old Hollywood. [3/4]
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post
“Hail, Caesar!” isn’t the first time brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have made a dud comedy… But they’ve never made one this half-baked and lazy. A barbed-wire valentine to 1950s-era studio Hollywood, as well as a meditation on the value of storytelling and the importance of movies, “Hail, Caesar!” is a goof with something to say. …Mostly, though, it’s just a goof, and not a particularly funny one. …
—Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
…if you can’t stand any form of religious humor, steer clear. I think personally that the Coens’ portrayal of Mannix is a highly positive one, and the movie stays on the right side of the line of taste. …“Hail, Caesar!” is unmistakably positive towards Catholicism in particular, and the redemptive power of Christ more generally. …
—Carl Kozlowski, Catholic News Agency and PopZette