About half of the Coen Brothers movies leave you devastated. Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, A Serious Man… the Coens put together a cast of characters and then the plot takes them pretty much through the only places that these characters could possibly go, making the only choices that they could possibly make, and ending up in the only places they could possibly end up. It’s a recipe for a fatalistic hopelessness as you walk out of the theater.
This isn’t about those.
This is about the really awesome happy endings that they’re capable of putting together when they’re inclined to do so:
Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou… Each of these gave us a grand cast of characters, had the plot take them through some surprising places, having good insights that allow them to make good choices, and then ending up in a pretty good place, all things considered.
Hail, Caesar, if you ask me, is their best film in years and years. (I mean, I could say that it’s their best since True Grit but that pretty much just says “it was better than Inside Llewyn Davis”… this is their best comedy since O Brother and it might even be better. I haven’t decided yet.)
The basic story is simple. We’re following the life of Eddie Mannix, a “fixer” for Capitol Pictures (huh… Eddie Mannix is based on a real guy) and we see him deal with problems involving a young starlet who finds herself in a family way, a popular actor in cowboy movies transitioning to grown-up fare, and a prestige picture about the life of Jesus Christ that he wants to throw past a rabbi, a patriarch, a priest, and a minister (as a setup to a joke goes, you can’t get any better than that).
Of course, everything begins to go awry when the star of the prestige picture gets himself kidnapped.
Along the way, we visit all kinds of movies and see all kinds of scenes. Cowboy movie scenes, Busby Berkley swimming pool choreography, a dance scene starring a whole bunch of Navy Sailors heading out to sea, black tie elegant drama scenes, and a lovely little moment where Hobie Doyle, the cowboy actor, picks up Carlotta Valdez (an ersatz Carmen Miranda) before dinner and they discuss dancing.
If you grew up watching the big and little films of the 1940’s and 1950’s, you’ll find yourself absolutely entranced to be visiting them again, even if only for 10 minutes at a time. They find the perfect way to leave you wanting more and saying “Man, I’d love to see Hail, Caesar… and Lazy Ol’ Moon… and Merrily We Dance… and definitely On Wings Of Eagles.”
And the best part? It’s got a happy ending. You should seriously check it out.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)