This Week: Hail, Caesar! and Broklyn

I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by the films I saw on February 6.  I started with the latest Coen brothers comedy, Hail, Caesar!, but it was than a triumph.  The story is a send-up of the movie studio system in the early 1950s as well as of several popular genres of the time.

Much of the film centers on a Biblical spectacle which takes whacks at Quo Vadis, The Robe, and, in some ways, Ben-Hur even though that film was not produced until several years later.  The deliberate geographical and historical blunders in the supposed script are hilarious, but may prove misleading to the unwary. George Clooney’s character starts in Germany, stays briefly in Rome, and then moves to Judea in a matter of days; the character also insists upon using “Palestine” as the name of the area.  (To the Romans, “Palestine” was a tiny part of the province of Syria.)

There are also spoofs of cowboy Westerns, swimming extravaganzas, and silly musicals.  There was no film noir that I could see, but the central plot did deal with an extortion attempt by a cell of Communist writers who try to kidnap Clooney and to smuggle their leader back to Moscow.  I could identify one or two members of the cell, but someone more familiar than I with the members of the Hollywood Ten could probably identify more.

This is not the best film the Coens have given us and may not be to everyone’s taste.  Some of the best scenes were given away by the trailers.

My second film for the day was Brooklyn.  I will not try to spell or pronounce the lead actress’s name, but I will say that I was impressed with her a few years ago inAtonement.  (She played a young girl who did a terrible, terrible thing.)  She is a candidate for an Oscar because of this film; otherwise, I might have let it slip by.

The film is set in the early 1950s as we learn from references to the old John Wayne film, The Quiet Man.  The main character migrates to Brooklyn from Ireland and finds herself adjusting nicely.  A family crisis forces her to return to her Irish village; eventually, she has to decide whether she prefers Ireland to Brooklyn.  The film is low-key and charming, but you could easily wait for the DVD unless you want to see the film before the Oscars are handed out.