Hail, Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers’ most disorganized movie comes at you with a series of vignettes about the intersection of labor and capital. Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix moves in and out of various dramas as he negotiates, cajoles, and eventually strong-arms a variety of dysfunctional personalities. The studio fixer is portrayed as a put-upon handyman, forever having to miss dinner with the family to do what’s necessary for the job–Brolin always stiff and mannered, his chiseled face only registering varying shades of glum. He invariably regards each of the stars he has to handle–pregnant, unwed, combative starlet DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson); out of place singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich); gay, Communist turncoat Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum); and abducted movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, who never changes from his Roman epic costume)–as chattel for his unseen, East Coast boss. Fit for stardom and little else, their desires and crises are merely PR obstacles to be intercepted before Tilda Swinton’s twin gossip columnists can print them. Their own lives micromanaged and spied upon. Any challenge to this system, whether it’s DeAnna’s flighty reluctance to a third marriage or Baird’s upfront rant against the status quo fronted by Mannix, is met with force (verbal if not physical) until compliance is assured. If there’s any reluctance on the fixer’s part in this, he keeps it coded and private, even in repentance (“I struck an actor in anger”). In this milieu, solutions are precarious, doomed to folly. One has to disappear, submit, or bury themselves under layers of metaphor.

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