By E.P. Whinters
Reflection on: Hail, Caesar!
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Hail, Caesar!, the Coen Brothers’ most recent film. Their past projects have been varied and often eccentric, but one thing they always are is humourous, even if the humour is black. Comparing my exposure to them in the past, Hail, Caesar! is a treat: light and fluffy, like cotton candy, with great acting, fantastic scenes, and more than one laugh.
The basic premise is a day in the life of a ‘Hollywood fixer’ (played by Josh Brolin) set sometime in the 1950s as he tries to keep his studio’s actors in line. If anything, I would say that Hail, Caesar! is an homage to the past, to the Golden Age of Film, the 1950s, when everything was glamourous and often more than a little cheesy.
Apparently, the name of the film came from George Clooney, a frequent actor in Coen films, when reporters would ask him about his “next film” after finishing one and not yet committed to another. His stock answer was always, “Haven’t you heard? I’m doing Hail, Caesar! with the Coen Brothers!” to which, upon hearing this, the Brothers would respond from their comfortable homes, “We haven’t written it yet!”
Flash forward: I imagine the Brothers are sitting in a swank coffee shop somewhere in Beverly Hills, with their lattes or chai teas, and pondering what their next film should be about. “Maybe it’s time to finally write this Hail, Caesar for Clooney he keeps saying he’s in,” muses one … “Now, what should it be about?” the other brother asks … and voila! Hail, Ceasar! Is born, and this is where the ‘Easter eggs’ come in. (An “Easter egg” is an intentional inside joke or hidden message found in a film, DVD or video game and the name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.)
If you know your Golden Age of Film, this movie is like a non-stop movie reel of Easter eggs. The Brothers must have had so much fun planning what else to include as they did their brainstorming! Movie genres of the era – musicals and the hoofers that made them (aka Gene Kelly), sweeping religious epic films (aka Ben Hur), comedic mystery films (aka Bringing Up Baby), western films (aka Roy Rogers) and water movies (aka Esther Williams); then there’s the lines of the times, the facial expressions, the off-set scandals, the egos, and … the Communists … and these are just the obvious ones! Watch for classic roles, for costume treats, for lines that are not expected, for odd sounds that come at the strangest of times … watch everything that is in the scene, everything that is said, sets, costumes, a character’s look, and bit parts by various TV actors you will recognize from Lost to Star Trek Voyageur and many more. The ‘Easter eggs’ are what you’ll remember after you’ve left the theatre, and continue laughing over them much later. They might even nudge you to see it again, to see what you missed the first time!
This movie isn’t for everyone, simply because it really is an homage film to the era. It’s not a parody or mockery – Channing Tatum’s tap dancing and singing is real (learned for this film) – but it is like the Brothers are having a ton of fun while honouring the era, the actors are definitely enjoying their roles, and the whole thing is a delicious cheese-ball from start to finish. With all the clips of films being filmed in the movie, you only get one story from start to finish – it’s simple, quirky, and a pure delight for those of us who love film and the eras that brought them to us now. And make sure you enjoy watching for those Easter eggs! Happy Easter, everyone!
(Hail, Caesar! is currently playing at Canyon Meadows Cinema in Calgary.)