When Josh Brolin’s character tells you that, “an army of technicians, actors, and top-notch artistic people are working hard to bring to the screen our biggest release of the year,” you cannot help but think he is not just talking about a fictional movie production. The Coen Brothers’ latest film Hail, Caesar! creates a glamorous world of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood, but is the film self-deprecating or self-indulgent?
Set in the 1950s, the story follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a movie “fixer” struggling to keep his film studio’s stars in line. This is made all the more complicated by the disappearance of “one of the biggest stars in the world” Baird Whitlock (a cheekily cast George Clooney) from the set of the studio’s major production Hail, Caesar. Surely, as the film-within-a-film unravels, we will be delighted with insider pokes at the film industry and perhaps some tough-love social commentary. Given that the film’s era and trailer hint at the rise of blacklisted communists, the extravagant opulence of the Golden Age could be in for a capitalist reality check.
Hail, Caesar! could easily fall into the self-congratulatory trap of modern-day movies commenting on a bygone era of movies (à la Trumbo or Birdman), but I hope it does not. If the film lives up to the spirit of its trailer, viewers can look forward to a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, endlessly referential romp with a star-studded cast using old-timey accents. The film will almost certainly do well, given the Coen brothers’ fan base, plus actors from every corner of Hollywood from Tilda Swinton to a tap-dancing Channing Tatum. We can watch the Hollywood insiders make fun of Hollywood insiders on February 5th, 2016.