• Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Tue Aug 30 23:25:24 2016
    HAIL, CAESAR! (2016)
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth

    *1/2 (out of ****)

    "Hail, Caesar!" is not a Woody Allen movie, but anyone who has soured on
    the once-dependable director will be reminded of that classic line from his 1980 film, "Stardust Memories." A super-intelligent being responds to our neurotic protagonist's fear that making films--or doing anything for that matter--is meaningless. "We enjoy your films. Particularly the early,
    funny ones."
    The same can be said of the Coen Brothers. I enjoyed their early
    films too. Not just the funny ones (their screwball masterpiece "Raising Arizona"), but the stylish noir ones ("Blood Simple"), the classy period
    ones ("Miller's Crossing"), and the brutally black comedic ones ("Fargo").
    But that was a long time ago.
    Since then they've fobbed us off with "O Brother, Where Art Thou?,"
    "The Ladykillers," and "Intolerable Cruelty"--intolerable all--and now
    they're back with "Hail, Caesar!," a novelty homage to Hollywood's Golden
    Age and the studio system that begat it. The Coens' clever writing style,
    once eloquent and facile, is nowhere to be seen (an interminable scene in
    which a stuffy director coaches his makeshift leading man in the fine art
    of elocution being a notable example). Charm is completely lacking. And
    once again we feel held at arm's length, no longer party to the insider
    trading of wit or brilliant cinematic instinct. The film is finely cast
    and production-designed to death as you would expect, crafted to play like
    an ode to old-school moviemaking. But "Hail, Caesar!" isn't nostalgic,
    it's plastic. The only warmth one feels is the heartbreaking memory of "'Arizona"'s salad days, as they say, when round was funny.

    David N. Butterworth

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