Not so regal by Richard Jones

A look at Hail, Caesar!

HailI’M usually a big fan of movies from the Coen Brothers stable but the latest fell short of their usual lofty standards in my view.

Okay, so it was a farce but nowhere near as captivating as their amusing O Brother Where Art Thou? classic from the early 2000s.

Even though George Clooney is in both.

This one is set in the early 1950s during the final years of the Hollywood stars and studio systems.

At the core of Joel and Ethan Coen’s 17th feature film is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).

He’s the head of production at Capitol Pictures and is a real fixer and studio manipulator.

One of his problematic stars is DeeAnne Moran (Scarlett Johansson) the central figure in Eddie’s water ballet movies.

Of course DeeAnne is modelled on the famous aquatic star of yesteryear, Esther Williams.

But unlike Esther, DeeAnne is pregnant and unwed so Eddie needs to find an ideal husband to keep the ‘star’ system unspoiled and intact.

And there’s another problem to keep Eddie focussed. The leading man of Hail, Caesar! (a Biblical epic, featuring the Crucifixion) has been kidnapped.

And the kidnappers? Well, as it turns out, they’re a group of Communist-sympathiser scriptwriters.

Now actor Baird Whitlock (Clooney) is a trifle dim – garbed in his Roman military costume throughout the film he has considerable trouble adjusting his sword when he sits down – so the leftist diatribes delivered by his ‘captors’ fly past his limited understanding.

So who should Eddie assign to rescue Baird?

Well, there’s another studio dimwit named Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) who’s just been re-assigned from westerns to a drawing room romance directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).

It seems that Hobie, now known as Hobart in an up-market romance, might be Eddie’s rescue mission man.

The situation becomes more urgent when rival gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton) start ferreting around the Capitol Pictures allotments.

I reckon Tilda’s characters are based on real-life duelling Los Angeles journos Hedda Hoppa and Louella Parsons.

Eventually Hobie locates Baird’s Malibu Beach ‘prison’ with the actor relaxed, hale and hearty but as McCarthy-ism and the Senate anti-Communism Senate hearings are looming the fate of the socialist screenwriters seems far less certain.

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