The new DVD/Blu-ray release Hail, Caesar! is unique, in that it could almost be seen as a collection of vignettes. Different movies are being made at the same time on the Capitol Pictures lot.
The film cleverly alludes to the communist witch hunt of the 1950s. Senator Joe McCarthy was convinced that Hollywood was full of secret communists, and so he and his committees started putting suspected communists under investigation. Those who opposed McCarthy were blacklisted in Hollywood.
The film also reflects the escapism of cinema at the time. The Cold War and the purveying certainty that World War III was on the horizon made Americans tense. This created a nostalgia for when things were simpler, and gave way to the popularity of westerns, as well as films about ancient times.
The year is 1951 and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a fixer for Capitol Pictures. His job is to keep the image of the movie stars intact and to keep their personal lives out of the tabloids. When DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) gets pregnant out of wedlock, it becomes Eddie’s job to get her married before twin gossip writers Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both played by Tilda Swinton) become the wiser.
Capitol Pictures is filming what they think will be their defining achievement. Hail, Caesar! stars Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). The studio panics when Whitlock is drugged on set and kidnapped and a ransom note is found demanding $100,000.
What makes Hail, Caesar! work is the casting. My favorite moment had to be Hobie Doyle’s (Alden Ehrenreich) singing cowboy. I can’t get enough of him singing Lazy Old Moon.
Another highlight of the film is Channing Tatum‘s Gene Kelly-esque character Burt Gurney. His fancy footwork and soft singing were a welcome treat. He really is more than just good looks.
The Coen Brothers know how to make a great film and Hail, Caesar! is no exception. As critics we sometimes want to find flaws and nitpick a movie, but this was a welcome light-hearted comedy. The social commentary is there, but the film can be enjoyed on several levels.
Whether you want a clever satire or a fun 100 minutes, Hail, Caesar! is a triumph.
The Blu-ray comes with bonus features. These include Directing Hollywood, An Era of Glamour, The Stars Align, Magic of a Bygone Era. I loved An Era of Glamour, which tells the audience how the set and costumes were selected to be period appropriate. I also loved The Stars Align, in which the film’s stars tell us why they were drawn to the project and what it was like working with the Coen Brothers. It was also fun to see how the stunts, such as Hobie swinging off a horse into a tree and landing back down on another horse, were done.