Thursday, 10 March 2016

Hail the Coens' homage to the golden age of Hollywood

Even a sense of renewed enthusiasm for viewing moving pictures in their natural environment cannot budge me from thinking that Grimsby looks grim, while a reliable source described London Has Fallen as “a horrible, hateful, jingoistic, badly scripted, awfully acted film”.

But not all the latest releases are bad – indeed, there’s one indie peach of film out there to love: the Coen brothers’ latest love letter to the golden age of Hollywood, Hail Ceasar!

To be honest, a first look at the trailer a few weeks ago was enough to grab my interest. I grew up with those films; musicals, westerns and thrillers were the fodder of my teenage fantasies.

And Joel and Ethan Coen have created a camp, funny, deeply loving homage with their latest venture.

It might not have a particularly dense plot, but it doesn’t suffer for that.

Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, a studio fixer in the early ’50s whose personal problems involve trying to quit smoking, and being head-hunted by Lockheed.

In between dealing with a pregnant Esther Williams-style star and trying to fit a young cowboy actor into a sophisticated drawing room drama, he finds himself plunged into difficulties when the disappearance of the star hits filming of a Biblical epic – the Hail Ceasar! of the title.

But if it initially seems that Baird Whitlock has gone on a bender, a ransom message sets them straight.

By the time we hit a wonderfully recreated On the Town-style musical number, I could feel my eyes sparkling.

Mind, it gets off to a great start with a neat little riff on The Big Sleep, and if truth be told, I didn’t stop smiling from then until the final credits rolled.

There are things to think about if you’re looking for something a little deeper – the nature of propaganda for one; technology and the future is another.

But that’s not really key to enjoying this film.

It is a wonderful ensemble piece. Brolin holds it all together with a very nice performance as Mannix, but George Clooney is in wonderfully gormless form as Whitlock.

Alden Ehrenreich impresses as cowboy Hobie Doyle; Tilda Swinton is great as bitchily competitive twin gossip columnists modeled after Hedda Hopper, and Heather Goldenhersh does a nice turn as Mannix’s unnamed secretary.

Channing Tatum prove he can sing and dance and Coen Brothers’ stalwart Frances McDormand also crops up as a husky film editor.

In fact, famous and familiar faces abound, including an uncredited Dolph Lundgrun, Wayne Knight – who stole the dino DNA in the original Jurassic Park, and Robert Picardo, who will be familiar to Star Trek: Voyager fans as the holographic Doctor.

Here, he’s a cynical rabbi, in a delightful scene where Mannix tries to convince faith leaders that the studio’s Biblical epic will be spiritually uplifting and theologically sound.
And the casting of Michael Gambon as the narrator is inspired (think Singing Detective).

So, if you want something to put a grin on your face and a spring in your step, take in Hail Ceasar! Because whatever the churlish might claim, it ticks all the boxes on those score.

No comments:

Post a Comment