Lampooning old Hollywood, this is one of the more enoyable Coen Brothers films. They aren’t all so. I have a special affinity for this type of story, as I have done my own bit of Hollywood satire.
That said, I am noticing something about these guys. They have a tendency to turn everything into absurdism, nihilism, making fun of everything and everyone so that all are fools. What is it they actually believe in? This reminds me of those techno German nihilists in The Big Lebowski. “We believe in nothing!”
Hail Caesar doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does indict the old Hollywood studio system, a factory farm of entertainment product that no longer exists in that form. Back in the day the studio owned the talent, set up romances, marriages and interpersonal drama. They dictated content with an iron fist, and it legitimately inspired a backlash.
That backlash shows up here in the form of some cartoonish kidnappers of a certain stereotype. These guys are so silly, and apparently the only ones here who truly believe in something. That makes them all the more ridiculous.
The Coens reduce the studio system, economics, acting, stardom, art, entertainment–all of it–to a silly whimsical charade that no one should ever take seriously. There are quite a few genuinely funny moments, but not a lot of meat to barbecue.
The audience tabulations are pretty good at reflecting the film’s strengths and weaknesses. One could do a lot worse at the multiplex, but it’s not going to displace Raising Arizona from my top comedies list.