Watch that trailer. Do you like it? It’s awesome, right? Well, it’s pretty good at least, right? Ok now pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s misleading and will set you up for disappointment when you watch the movie.
I had the benefit of watching this movie at home on HBO with low expectations. I never pursued it in theaters because I was turned off by the initial reviews. It wasn’t a flop but nobody was raving about it. I found it on demand and I was bored so I figured why not I’ll give it a shot. That’s probably the best way to watch any movie. What did I find?
I LOVED IT. I thought it was extremely well done and that Josh Brolin deserved a ton of credit for his performance. This wasn’t your average movie – which is exactly what the Coen bros strive for. It was a throwback. You hear that word “throwback” all the time now but never in reference to a movie. Sports teams wear old throwback unifroms, your friend posts a picture of you from 2008 for #TBT and you wonder how you gained so much weight and lost so much hair and why is time such a bitch and I miss college… I’m getting off track.
This was a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood. A time when studios owned people and their images like property. Cinematography was barely a thing and it was more like filming a play. The actors were awful but it didn’t matter as long as they were attractive and could sing/dance. Stars were stars and the studios would make it work somehow. Was it really as bad as the movie made it out to be? Probably not, but if you watch old movies I don’t think its too far from the truth. This scene was a perfect example:
Stunningly bad. I love the douchey old director having a fit attempting to teach the poor bastard how to act like a refined gentleman. He had only done westerns to this point… it was cruel but hilarious. Thank god for the subtitles because I had no idea what they were saying on my first pass. I can’t even fault the guy because even though the Coen brothers were making a point of him being out of his depth, they ramped up the other end of the equation with the most high brow and ritzy script imaginable.
It was such a different time for movies although Hail Caesar made one thing clear: despite being set 60+ years ago, actors are still the same dumb idiots we know and love today. But 1960’s America is still uptight, proper, and Christian so everyone needs to be a saint in order to be accepted. That’s where our man Josh Brolin comes in. He’s called a “fixer” but he was just a PR guy before anyone knew what that was. He cleaned up everyone’s mess that might hurt the studio. Like being a major celebrity who just got knocked up despite not being married.
1960’s America couldn’t handle one of their celebrities having a bastard child. He covered up things to be hidden forever or repackaged it to be consumed as something acceptable. He was brilliant at his job, but it was a billion times easier before the invention of the internet and twitter. That was a subtle running joke throughout the movie. Loved it.
Two scenes stood out to me that showed the wide range of crap that Brolin’s character had to deal with from day to day. First is this scene with religious figures to make sure the studio’s big movie portraying Jesus wouldn’t offend anyone:
He was a master of slinging bullshit. Doing and saying what he can to get these guys to agree the portrayal of Jesus was acceptable. Being polite as possible despite not giving a damn about what they had to say. All he needed was them to sign off on his project. Did he need their approval? of course not. The last thing he wanted to do was to talk about god. But he needed it to be on record that they consulted religious figures in case shit hits the fan so the studio could point the finger towards one of those four guys saying they approved it. Classic “cover our asses” move.
The other scene was this little gem after George Clooney’s character was “saved” from the communist kidnappers who barely kidnapped him. His head was filled with communist propaganda (which he was too stupid to really understand) and Brolin sets him straight. It was the tipping point and we got to witness Brolin’s character lose his god damn mind for 30 seconds.
So lets summarize: This movie was a throwback parody of old Hollywood. It had too many A-list actors for it’s own good and a writer/director duo with a legendary reputation. It was hyped up for good reason, but it wasn’t a normal approach to a movie so a level of disappointment set in because the audience was expecting something different. Looking past all of that and going into it fresh, it’s a fantastic movie. Well done and hilarious. I give it 89% critic score and an arbitrary 4.7 popcorns for entertainment.