Hail, Caesar! is rated 12A for infrequent moderate sex references
The Scoop – An affectionate and frequently hilarious Hollywood satire
It’s the golden age of Hollywood, and behind-the-scenes fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has his work cut out making sure that the stars don’t lose their shine. A typical day includes covering up the pregnancy of unmarried actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), fending off twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and persuading pretentious director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) that singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is the perfect leading man for his new film.
But when matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by communists in the middle of filming swords-and-sandals epic Hail, Caesar!, even Eddie has to concede that the show may not go on.
It would be very, very hard not to love Hail, Caesar! – and what would be the point in resisting? What’s not to like? This deceptively lightweight Hollywood satire/homage boasts, among other things, a ceaselessly witty script, a tap-dancing Channing Tatum, displays of synchronised swimming and spaghetti lasso skills, several musical numbers, and a tiny adorable dog. (I spent much of the film fearing for the safety of this dog, but don’t worry; it remains unharmed.) It’s a veritable box of treats.
The amount of actual cynicism versus affectionate ribbing on display here is up for debate, and that’s part of what makes the film so interesting. Beneath its farcical trappings, there’s a philosophical – even theological – conversation going on: about the value of entertainment, about art and commerce, about meaningful vocation. The Coen brothers are master storytellers, with more compassion for their absurd characters than may be immediately apparent. In Hail, Caesar! they find God in the unlikeliest of places – among the charlatans, misfits and idiots of the entertainment industry.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? If you have seen any other Coen films, how does Hail, Caesar! compare? What common themes and motifs run through their work?
- What did you make of the film’s ensemble cast? Did any performances particularly stand out to you? Which characters or scenes made you laugh the most?
- What did you make of Eddie Mannix? What motivates him in his life and in his work? In your view, is he right to stay in the job he loves, even though it takes him away from his family?
‘It’s pretty frivolous, isn’t it? The movie business?’ – Cuddahy (Ian Blackman)
- What image of 1950s Hollywood does Hail, Caesar! conjure up? If you have seen any films from this period, how might you describe them? In what major ways have culture and entertainment changed since then?
- In your view, does Hail, Caesar! portray the movie business as ultimately meaningful or frivolous? What arguments are put forward about the worth – or worthlessness – of studio films? Does the film appear to be satirising capitalism, communism or both?
‘The picture has worth. And you have worth if you serve the picture.’ – Eddie
- In what ways does the film seem to deliberately position Eddie as a Christ figure? How do we see him ‘take the sins of the world upon himself’? Do you think the film’s religious and spiritual elements are satirical, sincere, or both? Is it significant that we never actually see the face of Jesus onscreen?
- Do you think light entertainment has any deeper worth in our lives? Can cinema-going be a transcendent experience?
‘It’s the Son of God who takes the sins of the world upon himself.’ – Clergyman (Allen Harvey)