Coen brothers produce wacky take on Hollywood McCarthyism

March 11, 2016

Hail, Caesar
Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes
Written & directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
In cinemas

There must be something in the zeitgeist. Within weeks, two Hollywood movies have come out referencing the left-wing victims of the McCarthyite period of US anti-communist witch-hunting — the Hollywood 10.

But while Jay Roach's Trumbo takes a realistic view of the case and is sympathetic towards the victims, the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar is wild, wacky and hilariously disrespectful of everyone.

If you have seen any Coen brothers' film, you know what to expect, starting with lashings of cinematic expertise. They are masters of every US cinematic genre and are not reluctant to show it off.

Hail, Caesar's central story revolves around a Hollywood studio and the hypocrisy underlying the film magic. But that is just the starting point. There is theological argument, Marxist philosophy and high-camp singing and dancing — fun for all!

With all the razzmatazz it is easy to miss that this is a film about ideas. In among the religious buffoonery, it demonstrates that US capitalism is apocalyptically demonic.

The Coen brothers are notorious for their irony, which in previous films has crossed the line into cynicism. But not here. There are no sacred cows, but the lampooning is tender — or at least, tender in Coen brothers terms.

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