Would That It T'were So Simple
Alison Rosa, Universal Pictures
A Coen Brothers film.
I'm a big fan of the Coen Brothers work, they even have their own 'section' in my DVD library. Whenever they release a new movie I'm there on its opening weekend. Hail Caesar! is a giddy romp through the now obsolete world of the Hollywood studio system of the early 50s. I won't give any plot summary other than the most basic: Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a 'fixer' for Capitol Pictures goes through a series of tribulations on and off the studio during a day and a half of his life.
The Coens movies aren't for everyone. There is so much information in them that each one of them usually requires multiple viewings to allow it all to sink in. Many people don't have the depth of knowledge needed to be able to pick up on the various obscure references these films contain and find them uninteresting. That fact, coupled with the almost perverse situations in which the Coens place their characters, might give even the most open minded viewer pause (Joel Coen once described The Man Who Wasn't There as a film about a barber who wants to be a dry cleaner.) Despite all that, I think it would be a sad world indeed if there were no Coen Brothers comedies. Hail Caesar!, while not as uproariously funny as, say, the middle third of The Hudsucker Proxy, is humorous and packed full of philosophy—much as A Serious Man was.
Hail Caesar! is notable for its cast—almost all the principals are stars in their own right and even relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, playing a 'bad' actor, lights up the screen. The production is, of course, first-rate. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has worked with the Coens numerous times, is able to accurately portray the six different 'films within the film' as well as capturing the early 50s world which the actors and directors inhabit.
One note on the some of the disparaging reviews of HC I've read: there is a large number of critics who insist that Hail Caesar! is, compared to their other efforts, a 'minor' Coen Brothers film. These types of reviews have always surfaced with almost every one of their films, The Big Lebowski was especially savaged upon its release, Inside Llewyn Davis was another. One reviewer of Hail Caesar even proclaimed that the 90 second (!) swimming sequence in HC 'interminable': this is definitely not a film for those suffering with ADHD. Fortunately, most reviews have been sympathetic, if sometimes missing the point. The Coen's films are modern morality plays, thinly disguised as light entertainment, but there is always more to them than what they reveal on a first impression.
I you want to read a "real" critic who does understand Hail Caesar and the Brothers Coen, check out the great Sheila O'Malley's glowing review.