*** out of ****
With Hail, Caesar! the Coen Brothers have made a film that exists as a playground for everything they love: Kidnapping plots, classic Hollywood, cultural stereotypes, ineffectual radicals, cowboys, and character actors as far as the eye can see. The movie is another stylistic exercise in their tendency to produce entertaining yet meaningless stories made up of rich aesthetics accompanied by brilliantly clever dialogue exchanges.
Set in 1950s Hollywood, the story focuses on a movie studio executive (Josh Brolin) who is swamped with fixer tasks to cover up scandals and protect the image of people under contract. The studio’s biggest star (George Clooney) - while in the middle of shooting an over-budgeted biblical epic - has been kidnapped by an organization called "The Future” who demand ransom money.
Meanwhile the simple-minded movie B-movie star (Alden Ehrenreich) of singing cowboy pictures finds himself in the middle of strange studio dealings when he’s cast against type in a romantic drama much to the dismay of a regal director (Ralph Fiennes).
The movie is filled with many actors getting a chance to shine with this material (Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, and Tilda Swinton all have their share of fun too) but don’t expect to be swept up in a grander type of Coen experience. This isn’t Raising Arizona or The Big Lewbowski and it’s certainly not A Serious Man. This is more like Burn After Reading – if that title alone gives you the right idea. Temporary gratification is often found in the Coens large body of work, but the experience is usually worth it.