Coen brothers’ parody on Tinseltown has shining stars but no real bite
Joel and Ethan Coen are in very giddy form indeed in this star-studded comedy set during the height of Hollywood’s power and influence.
It’s very well made, of course, and the Coens have shown in the past they’re good with a lighter touch – most recently with the delightfully silly and under loved Burn After Reading.
But at the heart of this film is a sort of emptiness, a frivolity that makes it hard to get on board with the characters.
It’s a shame, because characters abound here. Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, an old-school Hollywood star who can open any movie even if there’s not much going on between the ears.
When he’s kidnapped by a group of left-wing activists demanding a ransom, the production of the costume drama in which he stars is thrown into chaos.
It’s down to the studio’s Mr Fix-it, top executive Eddie Mannix (Brolin) to track down Whitlock (it’s telling that he begins his search in the nearby bars) and get him back on set before the production collapses.
He also needs to keep the story away from the prying eyes of two of Hollywood’s most powerful gossip columnists (twin sisters both played by Swinton).
Mannix is having a busy time of it – on another studio lot, acclaimed director Laurence Lorenz (Fiennes) is having a meltdown, unable to coax a performance from the actor the studio has foisted on him, who is out of his depth.
There are beautiful, glorious set pieces throughout. Standouts include synchronised swimming scenes being shot for a movie starring the divaesque DeeAnna Moran (Johansson) and a delightful dance scene which showcases Channing Tatum’s multiple talents.
It’s all shot in glorious retro-looking technicolour by the great cinematographer Roger Deakins – but while it’s a treat for the eyes, there are problems here.
I’m usually well on board for lightweight Coens but the entire movie left me feeling a tad underwhelmed.
It’s funny and charming at times but the whole effort plays like very much a hit and miss affair, and there are too many rambling plot lines and under drawn characters. The big-name cast feels underused as a result.
Hail, Caesar! (12A) 3/5 STARS