Hail, Caesar! A comedy film by the Coen brothers set in Hollywood around the 1950’s focusing on Eddie Mannix a mediator and problem solver for the film studio “Capitol Pictures”. Eddie is revealed to be the boss man around Capitol Pictures, and he is in charge of everything. Throughout the whole film, the focus is on Eddie Mannix as he goes through his days dealing with issue after issue. The majority of the problems that Eddie deals with seem to come from his actors and their personal lives, not to mention the media constantly trying to expose them. The inciting incident to Eddie Mantix and the overall movie begins with Eddie arriving at a house where an actress of his is taking provocative pictures in a photo shoot. This requires Eddie’s intervention giving the young actress an alias and alibi to protect her image.
The first set of Eddie’s problems arise from the filming of the movie “Hail, Caesar” staring big-time Hollywood success Baird Whitlock playing in a historical film that is meant to depict the life of Christ through the eyes of Autolycus, a Roman leader. While filming the movie an extra in the film puts a powdered substance in the cup that Baird Whitlock is meant to drink out of. He proceeds to pass out and be abducted by the extra and is taken captive to an unknown house in Malibu filled with communist writers that feel neglected. Adding to the list of Eddie’s problems among Baird’s abduction is actress DeeAnna Moran who is a sassy, rambunctious woman who tells Eddie she is pregnant which concerns her image for the studio and herself. Eddie moves on with life having already sorted out a plan which he reveals to DeeAnna later on.
Again, piling up to the issues for Eddie to deal with comes from another movie by Capitol Pictures called “Merrily We Dance”. Directed by Lauren Laurentz, he is faced with the issue of including Hobie Doyle, a western film actor with a thick southern drawl. Hobie does not fit into this style of movie and it infuriates Laurentz which of course, becomes an issue for Eddie Mannix. Eddie tells Laurentz to make it work, which he eventually does in a laughable way.
Later on, in the movie, we discover that the communists who took Baird captive are holding him for a $100,000 ransom. Eddie receives this news by a letter issued by “The Future” and upon reading it and leaving to pay the ransom he is hounded by a media columnist named Thora Thacker. Thora is pursuing a lead regarding a film that Baird did in the beginning of his career called “On Wings With Eagles” and some rumors surrounding it. After Thora leaves Eddie alone, her twin sister Thessaly who is also a part of the media wanting to write a piece on Baird as well.
During all of this discord, Eddie is approached by a man who works for Lockheed Martin wanting him to leave the film industry to work for him. Eddie is again called to resolve a problem and postpones his answer to the man. Once Eddie leaves he visits a woman named C.C. Calhoun who edits the film for Capitol Pictures. As Eddie is watching the film editing on “Merrily We Dance” hoping to see Hobie’s part that Laurentz complained about with Hobie’s part. C.C gets her scarf caught in the projector and nearly chokes herself to death until Eddie reverses the reel and saves her.
Moving on with life and the pile of issues before him. Eddie goes to see a man named Arne Seslum who had an affair and is the father of the child with DeeAnna Moran. Arne tells Eddie that he is married and has been for some time which forces Eddie to seek out a new solution in protecting DeeAnna’s image. The solution to this issue comes from a man named Joe Silverman who has been loyal to the film company for some time. It is arranged for Silverman to be the foster parent to DeeAnna’s child, but you can tell in the meeting that DeeAnna is on to Silverman and this leads to them dating and the issue resolves itself.
Meanwhile, Hobie is set up with an actress to go visit the premiere of his newest movie “Lazy Ol’ Moon”. The crowd loves the film, and so does Hobie’s date Carlotta Valdez. After the movie, Hobie and Carlotta have dinner together and are approached by the two media sisters Thora and Thessaly who are trying to get a gossip column from them. The sisters move on which leads to Hobie’s discovery of the suitcase of ransom money that Eddie had paid the communist writers. Hobie leaves Carlotta and their date to pursue the man with the money which turns out to be another actor named Burt Gurney a star of a musical production with Capitol Pictures. Hobie trails Burt all the way to the house in Malibu that Baird is held captive at. When Hobie arrives, he finds Baird sitting there peacefully. Baird tries to convince Hobie to join the communist movement, but he is unmoved and aims to take Baird back to the studio. Meanwhile, the communists and actor Burt Gurney are paddling a boat out to sea where they link up with a Soviet submarine. Just before Burt boards the submarine the communist writers give him the ransom money to donate to the cause for communism. That is until Burt’s beloved dog jumps off the paddle boat forcing Burt to drop the ransom money suitcase and save the dog. The ransom money sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Eventually, Hobie takes Baird back to the studio and Baird goes to talk to Eddie. While talking, Baird claims he will disgrace the name of Capitol Studios as the communist writers would have wanted. This is until Eddie smacks Baird telling him to finish his part in “Hail, Caesar!” and finish what he has started. Baird returns to the studio where he proceeds to give the final speech of the movie and likely the most important part, but he forgets one of his lines. Later Eddie is approached by Thora the media columnist one more time where she explains Baird’s past experience getting a movie part in “On Wings With Eagles” by sleeping with Laurentz. However, because Thora’s source is Burt Gurney the communist he is unmoved by her threat. Eddie explains to Thora that if she posts the column she will be branded as a communist, and ruined. In the last scene of the movie, Eddie goes to confession where the priest tells him it is ok that he comes by often. He also explains that God would want people to do what is right. This point leads Eddie to remain with Capitol Pictures, decline Lockheed Martin, and be prideful of his work.
The author of this film takes a strange comedic and dramatic approach to explain the overall story. With an emphasis on character and the story, this film focuses on the aspects and issues of each character and how Eddie resolves the issues with them. Things like Baird and the communists, Eddie and Thora’s constant media pressure, and Hobie and Laurentz’s contrasting personalities reflect the character vs character conflicts, but Eddie vs. other characters is the main character conflict. Each of the characters was static in their development except for Eddie. It is the issues from the other characters unchanging ways like Baird conforming to his abductors and the ransom behind it that leads Eddie to his realization and lesson learned in the end. Eddie, the literary hero, and sole dynamic character is best represented by the modern hero that must overcome countless issues and rise to the challenges. Filled with character vs. character, self, and society, Eddie and the other characters are faced with constant conflict. Only, the conflicts are strange and seemingly meaningless. It seems like a movie that was pieced together randomly with character issues in order to project a meaning or storyline that was agreed upon beforehand. This film fits the Freytag Pyramid story structure by building up the constant issues upon Eddie until the climactic reveal of Burt being communist, Baird returning, and all other character issues finding their resolve especially Eddie’s problems and internal strife. This film also fits the Blake Snyder genre of “dude with a problem”. Not a perfect fit, but one that shows Eddie thrust into constant problems with many sudden events that test his survival in the business of film. Neither the Freytag pyramid or the Snyder genres helped much in analyzing this movie other than piecing out the events that were important. Though, the important events seemed obvious before fitting them into these film analysis tools.
Overall, it is hard to follow this movie, the scenes jump all over the place, the characters are nearly spread thin in their importance and the overall message is cloudy. It seems as though the story wishes to project that there is always a resolve and to take pride in one’s work no matter the complications at hand, but even that seems debatable. This film is most likely appropriate for adults and detail-oriented people considering its complexity and seemingly arbitrary scenes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If I had to give this movie a report card grade it would get a solid C. Being a star-studded movie with good filming and production it is relatively entertaining to watch. However, this movie is difficult to follow, spread thin in character building, and not really that entertaining overall, but I give it an average score for the potential aspects or main things I might have overlooked. It was difficult to understand and one of the more difficult reviews I have done. Regardless, for a comedic drama, it wasn’t very funny and the drama was strange and persistent. In the end, it wasn’t really a good movie and especially one that I wouldn’t recommend. The only addition I have to this review is that it is a Coen brothers’ film and they usually have movies with lots of detail and a built-up storyline. With that being said it is possible I am missing certain details and aspects of the movie that is important, but after watching it once I can’t tell.