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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Artists, Moralists, Communists, Columnists & Industrialists on Parade

Hail, Caesar! (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

In “Hail, Caesar!” set in Hollywood in 1951 at the height of the Red scare and Cold War angst, Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) works to keep Capital Picture's stars out of trouble. He clears his conscience with his priest (“Bless me, father, for I have sinned”) on a regular basis. His all too typical day has started at 5 a.m. spiriting young actress Gloria DeLamour (Natasha Bassett) away from a photo-shoot to protect her likeness from infringe­ment. Then having cleared “Hail, Caesar! A Tale of The Christ” with the Legion of Catholic Decency, he vets it further in a theological round table discussion with various religious leaders. He smooths some ruffled feathers over the forced recast of singing cow­boy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a high society part (“Hobart Doyle cannot act.”) He helps orchestrate actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) following the path of Loretta Young who covered up the out-of-wedlock birth of her daughter by vanishing for a while and resurfacing later with an "adopted" daughter. He enter­tains a feeler from Lockheed offering him greater security (“What happens when every­one owns a TV set?”) He pays off the Communists who have gone from infiltrating the pictures with pro-commie messages to a more “active” role. He placates the press with a made-up story of intrigue. And he gets back to the priest about where he's going wrong, if at all. All in a single day.


From the diary of Saint John of Kronstadt (52):
“He is near to his heart” is said of two persons of unequal rank, one of whom protects the other.  And the one who has been honoured by the protection of the higher person, and by being near to his heart, knows this, and is reciproc­ally near him in his own heart.  It is thus between God and those who serve Him with a pure heart: God is always near to their heart, and they are near God's heart.  It should also be the same during the prayer of every Christian: when praying we must absolutely be near to God in our heart.  All that is good and sincere in our inter­course with our fellow-man should be trans­ferred to God.
  1. A Roman soldier Autolycus played by Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) in the movie-within-the-movie, recognizes The Christ as benefactor of all mankind on account of his distributing water to the great unwashed, reminiscent of the incident (John 4:4-42) with the Samaritan woman at the well where, as historian Paul Johnson has pointed out, “Jews were commanded to have no dealings with Samaritans, who were held to be accursed” (135). Autolycus's Roman compatriot was all the while whispering in his ear to ignore the Christ figure and assert his Roman privilege to drink first.
  2. The movie refers to Saul's vision of, (Acts 9:1-4) “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul became Paul upon his conversion, a great benefactor of the church à la 2Cor. 6:4-10, and he wants to be in the Corinthians' hearts as they are in his, (2Cor. 6:11-13) “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.”
  3. Paul's immediate demand is the necessary, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” meaning not to mix their Christian worship with the pagan temple worship so prevalent in Corinth at the time (as I've expounded in an online study) but to effect true worship, as Johnson also elaborates of Jesus teaching, “how­ever orthodox Jews and Samaritans might differ, they both had nothing in common with what he called [John 4:23-24] ‘the true worshippers’ who ‘shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.’ For, he added, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’. The question of rival shrines was irrelevant” (136). In a play on his hearers being tight-assed (“straitened in your own bowels”—add it to the two instances above) the movie seems to take, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” into the realm of friend­ship which Paul allows with unbelievers (e.g. 1Cor. 5:10) to an instance in the movie where tight-assed gossip columnists Thora & Thessaly Tacker (Tilda Swinton) make an issue of a friend­ship (“We're fixin' to get friendly”) between the singing cowboy and actress Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio).
  4. In fact the bulk of this Coen Brothers movie seems to be instances of people or things being tight-assed or restrictive (“straitened in your own bowels.”) I'll continue this list in random order. There's the Jewish rabbi who dismissed the assessment of the Christian Orthodox & Catholic & Protestant clergy that “Jesus is the Son of God come to take the sins of the world upon himself.”
  5. There's the tight space of the confessional that Eddie visited often as if in imitation of Paul, (Acts 24:16) “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.”
  6. There's the machine press that tightly embossed the paperwork necessary to make the adoption scheme work.
  7. There's Eddie's watch and secretary constantly consulted as he tries to squeeze all his tasks into the time allotted.
  8. “Palestine, that godforsaken patch of desert” is where the “Hail, Caesar” movie in the movie takes place.
  9. In another inside movie “Crazy Ol' Moon”, the full moon in the sky is reflected in a watering trough. A comic-relief character tries to snuff the moon out by jumping bodily into the trough that confines the (reflected) moon.
  10. Hobie Doyle in a zoot suit is continually choked by his black tie.
  11. Actress DeeAnna Moran has an overly tight mermaid tail for her swim scenes.
  12. The barroom dance floor that the bar keeper tries to clear at closing time becomes even more crowded when a second contingent of dancing sailors arrives.
  13. The valise used to hold the $100,000 ransom money is too small to close easily (“Can I get you a bigger grip?”)
  14. The Paperwork for the scheme to sanctify DeeAnna Moran by having a "person" accept her baby as a foster child and then hand it back over to her for adoption is sealed until the year 2015. That's because benefactor "fix-it man" Eddie Mannix has his crew's interests at heart, he's not doing a half-assed job. Paul similarly has the church's interests at heart, and he sanctifies a mixed marriage accordingly, (1Cor. 7:14) “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” Paul extends that allowance to future mixed marriages (Christian & nonchristian) entered into: (1Cor. 3:21-22) “For all things are yours; Whether … the world, or things present, or things to come; all are your's.” Whether the clergy represented in the movie is as expansive as Paul or more tight-assed we will leave to the reader's experience to discover.
  15. The small (1951) TV screen that's competing with movies in this picture could hardly hold the extravaganzas they are producing.
  16. Mannix has such long hours his home life is altogether squeezed out, a situation his new job offer from Lockheed could remedy.
  17. “Merrily We Dance” editor C.C. Calhoun (Frances McDormand who's married to Joel) chokes when her scarf gets caught in the running equipment.
  18. The press puts the squeeze on Baird by threatening to reveal what he did to obtain a part in “On Wings As Eagles.”
  19. Hobie Doyle ropes his date's finger with his spaghetti.
  20. Baird having been drugged and kidnapped finds himself an involuntary house­guest of a “study group.”
  21. The study group's main book is Das Kaptial “with a ‘K’”, probably less liberating than is the group's employer Capital Pictures with a ‘C’.
  22. The extras are under investigation.
  23. One poor actor gets interrogated while he's hanging from a cross.
  24. Baird wearing his Roman sword was unable to sit down without getting it hung up in the furniture.

“Hail, Caesar!” depicts a day in the life of Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix who has his crew's interests at heart, as did the apostle Paul the church, and ultimately The Christ for all mankind. There were 24 straitening, confining, elements I was able to list, corresponding, I suppose, to 24 hours in a day. That this left little time for more plot development figures. If this squeezing is the unifying principle of the whole movie, chalk it up to Coen Brothers' off­beat genius. The show must go on, and a scriptural message is there to be found in a lot of pictures as I've discovered over the years, .

Production Values

This Coen Brothers movie, “” (2016), was directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, having been written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. It stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Alden Ehrenreich, with a lot of other recognizable faces in briefer parts. Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle steals the show. Every­one is admittedly flawless but nobody gets extended character development, not that it hurts this kind of picture. Josh Brolin delivers a great comedic performance as he breaks type cast.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some suggestive content and smoking. The disclaimer at the end of the closing credits that reads, “This motion picture contains no visual depiction of the godhead” is not an attempt to be cute but is a vestige of the Cohens' Jewishness, as was elaborately explained in the meeting shown of the Christian clergy and a rabbi. The costume design was immaculate and the cinematography strong, done by Roger Deakins, one of Hollywood's best. It's a well made movie with beautiful shots, clothes and sets. The period is recreated down to the smallest detail. The Coen Brothers have still got it.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I recommend seeing this movie on the big screen while it's still out there, or if you have to rent it, use the biggest display you can get hold of. Lots of visual treats await you. Hollywood's big screen best is sampled here, and the one sequence easily amenable to the little TV set is the seedy one at the start with the moon­lighting actress. This one is every bit as good as other Coen brothers offerings, but they are unconventional, and some reviewers missing the cohesive unifying principle have marked it down needlessly, so don't pay attention to that. I just say go for it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Johnson, Paul. Jesus: A Biography from a Believer. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.

Sergieff, Archpriest John Iliytch. My Life in Christ. or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and Peace in God: Extracts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt (Arch­priest John Iliytch Sergieff). Trans­lated with the author's sanction, from the Fourth and Supplemental Edition by E.E. Goulaeff. St. Peters­burg. Jordans­ville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2000. Print.