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COENS WITH CLOONEY IN HAIL, CAESAR

George Clooney joins The Coens right after they (sans GC) made an excellent comeback with INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
No matter the talent of the actor or actress, there are a few things mighty hard if impossible to sell. Like a twenty-something Jack Nicholson playing a virgin in the beginning of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE. Or when William Redfield points out that Charles Bronson's original DEATH WISH character is a liberal, and was a conscientious objector in the Korean war before becoming an urban vigilante. Or especially when Jane Fonda, in COMING HOME, slowly figures out that Vietnam isn't so great. And in the case of the latest Coen Brothers/George Clooney quirky collaboration, HAIL, CAESAR!, Clooney's A-list though bad acting Baird Whitlock is cast in a big budget time-period movie (titled HAIL, CAESAR!) that shouldn't be made despite being made, or something, and on his first day of shooting is kidnapped by a group of outsiders who are never not part of anything concerning the 50's... those being, Communists...

Potential Noir Wasted
Watching the famous liberal warming up to this semi-new (at that time) social/governmental Left ideology is like a shocked frog nervously taking to water despite beginning as a polliwog. Although the character is purposefully childlike, and his newly-found philosophical adoration, that he thinks can save both Hollywood and the world (in that order), gives him a finely-tuned performance in the role the once-hammy Whitlock was bound to fail at, and already embarrassed himself in rehearsals (just as SPARTACUS broke the Blacklist, Whitlock successfully, during the 11th hour, miraculously succeeds at a very similar role because of what prompted the blacklist in the first place... a sort of inside nod to Dalton Trumbo).

Boring Damsel
Meanwhile, the eclectic, eccentric, and formerly excellent Coen Brothers are all over the place, going bonkers stylistically yet with forgettable, bland dialogue and hardly any plot or urgency, creates an extremely weak version of their brilliant BARTON FINK style behind-the-scenes glance into Golden Era Movie Making Show Biz, Along with Josh Brolin's put-upon "Hollywood Fixer" Eddie Mannix, whose best feature is his last name, wasting Gumshoe style Noir potential, nothing really happens despite a barrage of colorful Wes Anderson style (in this case, the mentors imitating the student) perpetual movement on the screen: like Scarlett Johansson as a secret-slut actress known for playing a delightful mermaid; Ralph Fiennes as an anal director who must get everything right; Tilda Swinton as a snoopy and annoying yellow journalist; and if anyone deserves credit for playing their role with genuine grace and oblivious dignity it's Alden Ehrenreich as another intentionally horrible actor, this one a young, handsome, crooning cowboy... trying his best and seeming the most human, and not caring about being a joke on the set while still really trying...

"I'm in everything!"
After all, the kid never gets the Communist enlightenment of Whitlock or, last and certainly least, Channing Tatum's singing/dancing Burt Curney, who outshines the talky leftists and actually jumps aboard a gloriously shot submarine to Russia, and like in Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING, a tiny, annoyingly curious dog screws things up, and sinks a bag of cash that, in either film, doesn't matter anyway... Proving once again that it's the people with all the money who seem to completely despise it.

RATING: *
EXTRA THOUGHTS: As noted above, or rather, below the picture above of George Clooney, The Coen Brothers, personal favs with classics like BLOOD SIMPLE, FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, BARTON FINK and especially MILLER'S CROSSING, has been, since the weird yet entertaining Noir THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, in this reviewer's opinion, making garbage until the boys stopped hiring A-List performers and went back to no-name basics in the pretty good A SIMPLE MAN and the incredible INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, where the lead actor, Oscar Isaac, plays his own folk/blues music, wonderfully. And while Clooney was rip-roaring cool in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and OUT OF SIGHT, he seems to really want to fit within the Coens' style more than he actually does. For an actor faring better playing more laidback roles, he goes way overboard with his sporadic partners, who might just be the ones at fault.
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