Absurdist Briilance: A Review of ‘Hail Caesar!’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 05, 2016
Absurdist Briilance: A Review of ‘Hail Caesar!’

It’s nice when we can find that balance between the absurd and the irreverent.

In the latest from the Coen Bros, Hail Caesar!; we get an absurdist yarn with some smart and more than a little smarmy opinions on the Hollywood system and how truly silly it all really is.

Despite the genuine glory days of Tinseltown behind them all, that doesn’t stop the team at Capitol Pictures from believing that they are at the centre of the universe.  The one that keeps it all humming like a well oiled machine is studio fixer and boss Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).  A day in his life has him dealing with starlets pregnant out of wedlock, aggressive gossip columnists, boozing stars and a plethora of egos at every turn.

A unique beast of a film, Hail Caesar! really isn’t about anything while at the same time being a sly and subtle condemnation of the studio system and some of the pap that gets shoved down the movie going audiences throats from time to time, especially during a period when the political and social systems of the country were capable of some fairly absurd lunacy at any given time.


A stylish and fun affair, it always moves with a brisk banter and pacing that are common to their films but rather some of their more serious efforts this plays in the grey area’s with some deadpan comedic timing as this intricate web of stories unfolds into one another.  They don’t just debate the studio system but the tackle some spiritual and philosophical ideas wrapped up inside this Technicolor farce.  While it likes obvious substance, that’s the point that the Coen brothers are going for.  They want to revel in the glory of something while taking the piss out of it at exactly the same time, because unlike most other businesses for these people, their job, their art is their religion and unless you’re in the middle of it, there is no greater satire in life.  Its layers upon layers of smart, which makes for one of those movies that you won’t necessarily have a full appreciation of on first pass, but you’ll know that you want to go back for more.

The loaded ensemble does a fine job, with the stalwart Josh Brolin and his underrated comedic timing leading the way while the likes of George Clooney, Scarlet Johansson, Aiden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and many others provide delightful flavour to the overall proceedings and Channing Tatum practically steals the show with a tap number that would have made Gene Kelly proud.  In typical Coen fashion, there really is no standout performer in the film and there shouldn’t be as we are submerged into a day in the life of someone who troubleshoots life in hail-caesar-trailer-09oct15-09Tinseltown.  The characters are less about being fleshed out and compelling then they are serving a purpose or function in the fable that they are unfolding.  With some fun cameos and a plethora of familiar faces this is very much a movie about appreciating the ride rather than where it ultimately takes us.

It’s a movie that will grow on you like a fine wine, and while fresh out of the box it might be hard to appreciate, in time Hail Caesar! will rank as one of the more subtly brilliant entries into the Coen canon.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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