Hail Clooney! Hail this Caesar from Augusta!
I’m not sure the movie-going public will get all the Hollywood insider jokes in the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” opening this weekend, but they’ll enjoy seeing George Clooney in this goofy role as the kidnapped movie star while playing the Roman emperor in 1951.
If you’re REALLY into movies, you’ll enjoy the spoofs of 1950s genres: Gene Kelly’s dancing sailors, Esther Williams’ swimming shot from an overhead camera; Roy Rogers’ riding and roping, etc. This is what stresses out studio boss Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), all the production and publicity problems he’s trying to fix in movies all over his Capitol Pictures lot.
Oscar-winning directors-writers Ethan and Joel Coen have rounded up an all-star cast for this romp through Hollywood: Clooney as Baird Whitlock, “one of the biggest stars in the world”; Scarlett Johansson as mermaid movie star DeeAnna Moran; Ralph Fiennes as director Laurence Laurentz; Channing Tatum as singing sailor Burt Gurney; Jonah Hill as studio lawyer Joseph Silverman; Frances McDormand as chain-smoking film editor C.C. Calhoun; Tilda Swinton in the dual role as rival gossip columnists Thora & Thessaly Thacker; and Brolin.
But unknown Alden Ehrenreich (from Cate Blanchett’s “Blue Jasmine”) steals the show as Hobie Doyle, the singing cowboy miscast in a black-and-white period drama. “It’s talkin’ and people listenin’, which put me off a little,” Hobie explains to Mannix.
I’ve seen reviews comparing “Hail, Caesar!” to Gene Kelly’s classic “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) and Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning “Network” (1976), but I won’t go that far. Those films were more accessible to the general audience than “Hail, Caesar!” in my view. However, movie critics love this film for all the inside Hollywood satire and sight gags. I’m not sure the sum of all these great stars is greater than their individual parts.
To me, the joy was watching George Clooney prove why he’s one of Hollywood’s most versatile, entertaining and durable actors for the past two decades. Think about his incredibly broad spectrum from “Syriana,” “Tomorrowland,” “Gravity,” “Michael Clayton,” “The Ides of March” and “The Perfect Storm,” to “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” “Leatherheads” and “Hail Caesar!,” and everywhere in between (“The Descendants,” and the “Ocean’s” trilogy, “Good Night, and Good Luck,” “One Fine Day” or insert your favorite Clooney movie role here).
Clooney is a treat to watch as the Roman emperor who becomes the pawn in the kidnappers’ extortion effort.
Hail this Caesar from Augusta!