Hail, Caesar! is a collection of cute moments from talented actors. Maybe it would be best viewed as an extended episode of “Mr. Show with Bob and David”, but those always made me laugh far more than this did. Still, with a cast this stacked, there were bound to be some highlights. I thought that the kind of “in the Navy” Channing Tatum singing and dancing number was delightful. It fits into the story as a glimpse into the action on the set of Capitol Pictures with its executive and fixer Eddie Mannix—Josh Brolin. Brolin is fine as the slightly exasperated but always within control Mannix. There was also a powerful speech where George Clooney, in character, forgets the final words, which makes for a slight laugh, and skewers the idea of the validity of emotion within film, but for what? I was left with several questions when the film ended.
Clancy Brown and George Clooney playing actors playing Romans in Hail, Caesar!
By having Clooney’s character agree with his communist abductors—yes, one problem Mannix faces is that Clooney gets drugged and abducted by non-threatening communist screenwriters—I figured that perhaps the directors were presenting them in a positive light, but they became so farcical and inept that I wondered why take this shot at communism?
With the negative portrayals of sniveling screenwriters, condescending directors, cowardly or dimwitted actors, was this an indictment of the film industry? I do not see the self-criticism herein, which makes me wonder if I missed something.
One part of the Hollywood film industry that never seems to make it into movies are the investors. Well in this one Eddie Mannix calls New York every day to give them updates. We, the audience, never get to actually hear “the money” speak. Does this represent the disconnect between financing art and creating it? Without hundreds of millions of dollars our film industry would be nothing like how it is now, nor how it was in the 1950’s. But they get no credit in creating the art, does their perceived financial desire totally remove their connection to the art created? The art that legally they have a greater claim to ownership over than the cast or crew.
But the most important question of them all is why choose Eddie Mannix as the hero, of all people?! Eddie Mannix was a real person who was portrayed as a villain in Hollywoodland. Therein the late Bob Hoskins portrayed him with a tender menace. For those who have not seen this gem, it is a biopic of George Reeves (Superman). Who tries to make a cuddly flic like this about a guy whom many believe is a murderer?
Channing Tatum as Burt Gurney and co singing that “No Dames” number.
Unfortunately when taken as a whole, this day in the life of Eddie Mannix just does not satisfyingly fit together. Oddly it felt more like a lesser Wes Anderson film than a Coen Brothers movie. I leave you you all with the highlight of the film, the words to that Navy song:
We are heading out to sea and however it will be, it ain’t gonna be the same. cause no matter what we see, when we’re out there on the sea, we ain’t gonna see a dame. we’ll be searching high and low on the deck and down below but it’s a crying shame. Oh, we’ll see a lot of fish but we’ll never clock a dish. We ain’t gonna see a dame. No dames! we might see some octopuses No dames! or a half a dozen clams No dames! we might even see a mermaid But mermaids got no gams! No gams! Have I got a girl for you! out there on the sea! Here’s how it will be i’m gonna dance with you, pal you’re gonna dance with me! When we’re out there on the sea we’ll be happy as can be Or so the Captain claims! But we have to disagree. Cause the only guarantee Is I’ll see a lot of you And you’ll see a lot of me! And it’s absolutely certain That we’ll see a lot of sea. But we ain’t gonna see no dames. No dames! We’re going to sea! No dames! We’re going to sea! No dames! We’re going to sea! We ain’t gonna see no Dames!