There's a level of adoration cinephiles have for the Coen Brothers that I cannot quite get behind. I enjoy their work immensely. Like any other former film school student, I have a list of my ten favorite Coen movies.* I'll turn out for pretty much anything they do.
*Okay, looking at it, I've seen less than I thought. I can actually just BARELY get there.
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. The Big Lebowski
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
5. No Country For Old Men
6. True Grit
7. Raising Arizona
8. That Section They Did in Paris, je t'aime
9. Burn After Reading
10. Intolerable Cruelty
But they've never held them in the sort of rarified air that a lot of other movie-lovers do. Sometimes their movies are great, and sometimes they're just... fine. I'm not going to bat for Burn After Reading just because it supposedly improves on successive viewings. I think I got enough the first time.
Hail, Caesar, is one of those sort of Coen movies. There are sublime moments to it – every bit of physical comedy that Channing Tatum adds:
Or, Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes' failed attempts to educate cowpoke Alden Ehrenreich* on the finer points of diction. Or even the quick, subtle scene where a production assistant is trying to figured out if an actor is an extra or a featured player, without anyone acknowledging that the actor is a) playing Jesus Christ and b) hanging crucified from a cross throughout the entire conversation.
*It's a star-making performance for Ehrenreich. I'm so happy he'll be the new Han Solo.
But none of it adds up to much of anything, and the plotlessness of it all is more wearying than anything else. In the end, I'm glad I saw it more as a Coen (sort-of) completist rather than a moviegoer.