MOVIE REVIEW: Set in 1950s Hollywood, "Hail, Caesar!" harks back to an era when movie studios "handled" their stars and tried to smooth over any unseemly incidents. That still happens, but now the stars' personal publicists, rather than the studios, fill that role.
"Hail, Caesar!" follows movie studio mogul and resident fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), who is suddenly beset with a missing movie star. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is filming a big tent pole movie (also titled "Hail, Caesar!") when he's kidnapped.
With Whitlock's abductors demanding a $100,000 ransom, Mannix struggles to keep the news from local gossip columnists (two separate characters, both played by Tilda Swinton). He's also dealing with an unmarried, pregnant actress (Scarlett Johansson) and fending off persuasive job recruiters. Oh, and he's trying to quit smoking.
With most Coen brothers' movies, there's usually one or two scenes that really stand out. That people talk about year after year, and watch over and over. The music studio scene in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" The wood chipper scene in "Fargo." And, well, basically every scene in "Raising Arizona" and "The Big Lebowski."
I'm not sure what that scene would be in "Hail, Caesar!" The one that stands out for me is a snappy musical number starring Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-esque sailor, dancing up a storm with other sailors in a bar. Time will tell if we're still talking about that scene in five years.
Still, even without a standout scene, "Hail, Caesar!" is fast-paced, quippy and smart, with a knock-out A-List cast and amazing era-specific costumes, architecture and cars. And I love the Coen Brothers' ability to poke fun at the Hollywood machine, which, ironically, is making them super-rich.
PARENT OVERVIEW: While milder than most Coen Brothers' films, "Hail, Caesar!" includes some iffy language, cartoonish violence, and era-accurate smoking and drinking. Women wear provocative clothes, and a sub-plot involves how to deal with a pregnant, unmarried actress.