The classic studio era of Hollywood was really a glamorous time–full of movie magic and larger-than-life stars. But the man who was very much responsible for that image we’ve acquired over time was Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix. He kept the public from seeing the slime and dirt that went on behind the scenes.
As history goes, Mannix really existed, but for the sake of this film, the people and events around him are very much fictitious.
Taking place in the early 1950s, big time movie star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped amidst starring in the studio film Hail, Caesar! But that’s just the main conflict. The overlying focus is on Mannix (Josh Brolin) and his responsibility in making sure he does his job right. From an illegitimately pregnant movie star to a homosexual rumor to a Communist threat, Mannix must keep the gossip columns away and put up a facade for the rest of society.
The film really is a great inside look at the backside of the film industry in those days. But it may only be appreciated if you know the context of the events taking place. The feel is authentic as it mimics classic cinema in its own right.
The sets may be impressive, but the film tries to cover too much ground in one sitting. Just like a typical Coen Brothers film, Hail, Caesar! will leave audiences sitting there debating the point. They tend to dance around what they want to say and get there very indirectly. It’s filled with small comedic bits and a lot of extra stuff to help establish the universe.
Perhaps the most impressive sequence is during one of the several films-in-a-film where Channing Tatum’s character stars in a Gene Kelly-type picture, and there’s a 5 minute tap-dance musical number. You’d almost wish you could watch an entire movie of just these types of moments. However, in this day and age, we’ll have to settle for Hail, Caesar!