Canberra Centre Masthead

Review: Hail Caesar!

Roslyn Hull

A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line. The story follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix. IMDb

Dear Joel and Ethan,

You Coen boys have always been my ‘go-to’ guys for truly original films. Even when you reference other eras or other mediums (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, Inside Llewyn Davis) your combined voice is like no other. A story as old as The Iliad is made new and a mere remake like True Grit becomes a powerful cinematic experience.

So what the hell happened with this movie?

Remember film school boys, if you can’t write a one sentence logline, you don’t know what your story is about. Even after it ended I struggled to tie all the pieces together. Who was the protagonist? It certainly didn’t seem to be Josh Brolin (as Eddie Mannix) and it wasn’t until I read a synopsis that I discovered you thought he was! He didn’t really fix anything except when he slapped George Clooney’s Baird Whitlock around.

I really had no idea why you had a sub-plot with Scar-Jo’s Esther Williams-esque character’s inconvenient pregnancy – but she found her own solution in Jonah Hill. The cowboy character I thought was meant to be Audie Murphy / Roy Rogers-like (the wonderfully named Alden Ehrenreich) not only sorted out how to work with Ralph Fiennes poseur director for himself, he solved Mannix’s kidnapping woes for him!

Was Channing Tatum the hero? He totally owned his gay Gene Kelly stereotype and his dancing was completely fabulous. I even bought him being a genial (if absent host) to a bunch of communist writers. But you lost me in making the kidnapping of George (Clark Gable) Clooney, by those same communists, the McGuffin. And why a Soviet submarine off Malibu?

Was it just so you could play awesome Russian music?

I loved the snarky little jabs at old Hollywood, particularly the crows I could hear every time someone mentioned ‘On Wings of Eagles’, supposedly the film where Fiennes character got inappropriately close and personal with Whitlock. Which of Tilda Swinton’s twin gossip columnists would spill that story was the only (slight) tension in the plot.

Was this whole film just an exercise in Hollywood set pieces? If so, well done! Each one is up to the MGM gold standard, and thoroughly enjoyable. But did they really contribute to the story? Your cast was impeccable and their talent unquestionable but in the end the parts are so much more than the whole.

It wasn’t broad enough to be a farce, not bitchy enough to be a satire and too disjointed to be a homage.

You’ve let me down boys, I rely on you for originality, freshness and a complete commitment to the film genre being portrayed.

I am not angry, just disappointed – don’t let it happen again.

Yours (but with bitterly pursed lips), Roslyn


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author