By Evan Purcell
2/21/2016, 4:30 a.m.
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Watching Hail, Caesar! is like taking beautiful, blue puzzle pieces and sticking them together to form the picture of a puddle. The parts are just so much better than the whole.
The Coen Brothers have packed the film with Old Hollywood wackiness, but its main story is basically a day in the life of an overworked studio guy (Josh Brolin) who has to juggle a bunch of different movies in the face of a million little problems, chief amongst them the kidnapping of A-lister George Clooney by a mysterious organization. It’s a merry little walk through the movie studios of the 1950s, but its detours are much more exciting than the main path.
In the film’s clear highlights, we see the Technicolor splashes of musicals, Westerns, and Biblical epics, all of which are gorgeous little time capsules. My personal favorite was a Scarlet Johansson underwater dance number, which was pure sensory overload. The Coens have taken period movies and personalities and exaggerated them into bursts of joy. They clearly love old movies, and this film basically forces you to love them, too.
It’s just a shame that so much of the film focuses on the least interesting parts of this world, and that it ultimately doesn’t add up to much, despite the laugh-out-loud moments, philosophical discussions, and dancing sailors. I was entertained for most of the film, but it’s not going to stay with me the way Fargo or Inside Llewyn Davis do.
Where this is most obvious is in the last 10 minutes of the film, which flirts a little with some sort of thematic statement, but mostly just ends. And this ending isn’t like the intentional non-ending of the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men. That movie purposely took an exciting film and allowed it to fizzle into nothing. Hail, Caesar!, on the other hand, pretty much stops.
All in all, it’s a disappointing Coen Brothers movie that happens to have some of the best scenes they’ve ever made. It’s worth it to watch those scenes, but it’s a shame they didn’t come in a better package.