** and 1/2 out of ****
The Coen Brothers’ new film Hail, Caesar! is a movie where the sum is lesser than the individual parts.
Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a studio fixer who cleans up messes when stars get into trouble. The studio’s latest epic Hail, Caesar! is in dire straits when its star (George Clooney) is kidnapped from the set. Brolin tries to solve the mystery while dealing with other studio headaches like a Western star (Alden Ehrenreich) being miscast for a drawing room comedy.
As some critics have already noted, this plays more like a TV pilot than a feature film. A subplot involving Scarlett Johnasson as an aquatic musical star goes nowhere. Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand have one scene each. Ralph Fiennes, who shone in The Grand Budapest Hotel, proves once again he’s a terrific comic actor. But sadly, he disappears entirely after a couple of early scenes.
The film either needed to be stretched into a 5-10 episode miniseries to flesh out all of the subplots or the focus needed to be tightened considerably (maybe just focusing on the kidnapping and the Ehrenreich character).
Even though the movie has funny moments (many involving Ehrenreich or Fiennes) and excellent cinematography by Roger Deakins, there’s too many dead-ends for it to fully come together.