Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hail, Caesar! Review

The Coen Brothers have been doing this movie thing for quite some time. A when they make a movie, they make a movie. As in they often direct, write, produce, and edit their movies. Typically their movies are pretty darn good, as well, as they are know for movies such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit. So when it's announced that they are making a new movie, that's something to be excited for. However, it's worth noting that on a personal note, I didn't quite let myself get too excited for this movie. There were some people that had this movie as their most anticipated movie of the entire year or one of their most anticipated movies. That wasn't me. Yes, I was excited, which is why I had it on the good side of my 2016 movie preview, but I had my expectations tempered a bit because the Coen Brothers' last outing, Inside Llewyn Davis, left something to be desired for in my opinion. They also helped write the screenplay for Unbroken, another movie that I was disappointed in. So I knew very well that despite everything they've accomplished, they're not infallible. I'm glad I went in with my expectations tempered because this is an outing from the Coen Brothers that I really just don't get.

Hail, Caesar! is a movie that is set in the 1950's and is essentially about a day in the life of a film studio back in the day. This is not a true story of an actual studio or movie. All the names of actors, directors, movies, studios, etc. are completely fictional, but there are a lot of parallels to the actual 1950's with the types of movies and situations with the actors and whatnot. Thus the movie is an homage to old film, which is cool. There are several movies within this movie that are followed, the main one being Hail, Caesar!, a biblical epic that tells the story of the life of Christ from the vantage point of a Roman soldier. They are almost finished filming this movie when the lead actor gets drugged and kidnapped. This is the story that was advertised a lot in the trailers and thus I thought the movie was going to be an uptempo, comedic thrill ride where some of the cast and crew go on a big search to get their star back. No, this is not really the case. Comedic, yes. Uptempo? No. Thrill ride? No. This is actually a slow, drawn-out movie where the tone is all over the place and the focus doesn't really seem to be there. In fact, we bounce around quite a bit showing several different movies that are in the process of being made and the central character is a guy who is head of the studio and is trying to juggle a whole bunch of things, both with his work and with his personal life.

I don't want to just totally tear this movie apart, so lets start with the good. The look of the movie was very good. Being that this was an homage to old film, this definitely had the look and feel of an older movie. The color schemes in the movie were great as were the costume designs and set designs. It felt like I was watching an old 50's movie. On top of that, the great Roger Deakins was out cinematographer and he was great as always. There were a lot of great shots in this film and great camera work. Some of the edits in the movie were a little jolting, but overall all the technical aspects of this movie were spot on and this was a well-designed movie. I was also completely glued in to the first half of the movie. I loved the fact that we were watching a film about a film. We would be watching a scene that felt like it was an actual movie from the 50's and then we heard the directors voice and suddenly we noticed that we were on a set. This was a lot of fun. Then the directors would give advice to the actors or the actors would forget a line or mess up somehow. Then we jumped to another movie set and did the same thing. Or we would cut to Josh Brolin's character, who was the head of the studio and we saw him doing a bunch of behind the scenes work to make sure everything is running smoothly. It started off a lot of fun.

But then we kept going. The individual scenes were a lot of fun. There were a lot of great performances by a lot of people who were spot on with acting like they were actors from back in the day. But before too long I was realizing that the movie was just dragging on. It appeared that the Coen Brothers were having fun paying homage to the 50's, but they forgot to include a plot for us to follow. I thought when George Clooney that we were just going to focus on that storyline, but that was only a part of the movie. And honestly I didn't think that storyline was all that interesting. The idea behind it was good. But they didn't do much with it. Halfway through the movie, I started to get bored. There was nothing to follow and no one to care too much about. It was almost like a skit movie where a bunch of different, random skits are strung together as one movie. Then we got to a point where I was still waiting for things to pick up. I was wanting the movie to go somewhere or dive deep into a storyline or start to get emotional. Nothing. Suddenly a thought struck me during one specific scene. Are we about to end? No we can't end right now. We still haven't... oh. It's over. The movie just... ended. What?!?!?! Did that really... just... wow!

From a fairly young age, I was taught the format that stories follow. This is like basic English class stuff with that bell curve and all? We get introduced to our characters, then some sort of conflict begins. This leads to the rising action and at the peak of the curve is our climax. Then we get the falling action followed by the resolution and end stuff. I'm botching all of that terminology, but hopefully you have that picture in your head. I didn't feel like Hail, Caesar! followed that. Instead of the movie being like a bell curve, it felt like a straight line that was going for a while and just abruptly stopped. I sat there during the end credits and during the drive home feeling like I missed something. Like there's some sort of deeper meaning and hidden story within the story. I didn't find that. I don't know what the point of the movie was. I couldn't find any real strong themes. What was the goal of the Coen Brothers with this film? What were they trying to say? I really don't know. Some movies you do have to watch once or twice to fully understand things. I get that. Maybe if I watch it again, then I will pick up on more things or I'll discover a new movie within the movie. I don't know. Right now I just feel confused. Not at the plot. I know exactly what happened. I'm just confused at what the point of this movie is.

I'm not going to call this a bad movie. It isn't. The movie is an homage to old film and that I thought was cool. The cast in this movie is huge and they all do a great job. Most of the cast, like Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill, felt more like cameos, but still. Their segments were good. The three main actors that we actually followed were Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Alden Ehranreich. They all were great. The comedy was fantastic as there were several laugh-out-loud scenes. All the technical aspects of the movie were spot on. So there's a lot to love. But as a whole, I don't know what the point of this movie was. I couldn't find a solid theme or a purpose for the movie. It just felt like a day in the life of an old 1950's film studio with little substance and I kinda found it boring. Honestly this is exactly how I felt about Inside Llewyn Davis. I felt that movie was just a week in the life of a struggling 60's folk singer with little substance. Yet some people called that movie the best movie of 2013 and one of the best this decade. So perhaps I'm missing something with this movie. Maybe I need to spend more time thinking about it. Maybe I need to watch it once or twice more. I fully admit that. Perhaps my opinion will change over time, but initially my grade for the movie is a 6.5/10.

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