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Hail, Caesar! (2015)

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Breakfast on Golgotha

Jesus Christ and a scooter, sometimes one wonders how it can possibly happen, amidst so many Marvels, that a movie has the guts for a “But far away in Palestine… (Divine presence to be shot)” card. Welcome to the Billy Wilder forties, with the brightest imbecile in the room, namely George Clooney, the royalty Hollywood does NOT deserve, playing movie star Blair Whitlock playing Caesar in some prestige Christian epic.

This movie is hilarious, and its comic range is so impressively broad that telling the tale would spoil the viewer’s pleasure. Blair Whitlock is abducted from the soundstage and studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), having a crisis of faith as in any Coen movie, has to get there back on time for his Oscar moment. That will prove difficult and desperately simple in equal measures. Enough said about the plot.

With “The Future” being a recurring theme of an intrigue set in the past, the movie has a thing or two to say about the present. From an œcumenical meeting featuring the various confessions the movie in production may or may not offend (“The Nazarean was not God!” tersely states the rabbi), to rumour-mongering gossip columnists (SWINTON, larger than life and twice as funny), the Coen spotlight is merciless. Did things change that much in 70 years?

Wonderful comedy moments erupt from scene rehearsals, with lobotomised extras waiting their cue for the next take of Merrily We Dance, the parlour piece painstakingly shot by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Scarlet Johansson has a deliciously vulgar turn as a pregnant Esther Williams. To one’s astonishment, Channing Tatum steals the show as a sailor doing a flawless Gene Kelly routine filled with gay innuendo, singing “We might see some octopussies”, in a bar/brothel called the Swinging Dingy, no less.

The nefarious plot concocted by Hollywood’s communist writers (all nine of them) is based on “accelerating the dialectics”, something of a Coen brothers’ trademark. Things get hectic by way of a near-death by Moviola, a lasso demonstration and a make out scene that so far only Walt Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp had managed to pull off. Lord, they even manage to sneak in a Dutch angle, which made one spit his drink.

Gloriously ending on the stupidest possible scene involving a Soviet submarine, a lapdog and an attaché case full of dollar bills, Hail, Caesar! is a non-stop giggling feast. Caesar finally delivers his Oscar monologue on Golgotha, but he blanks on the last word. This last word – or the lack thereof – wraps things up ideally. Bravo, bros!

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