Characters as Spectacle in Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brother’s Hail, Caesar! explores the systematic work of Old Hollywood (circa the 50s)  involving executives,  actors, crew members, and Communists that are entwined within unraveling plot threads throughout the film.  The characters define the film as much as the background setting situates the action by the characters navigating throughout set pieces, both in the film and the films being created within their respective studios, offering us a fictionalized, and perhaps a romanticized (not sentimental ) portrayal of the studio system. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) traverses through varying stages of cinematic production with ease, as he is the head of production for Capitol Pictures.

As mentioned previously, there are several plot threads that are revealed, however, do not build tension  in themselves, suggesting that plot points within a narrative are as artificial as the set pieces that house them. However, the characters are allowed to flourish with idiosyncrasies and definitive traits that cement their presence in Hail, Caesar! Secondary player DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) embodies this character dynamic: her limited screen time strategically reveals her role within Capitol Studio, her character motivation, and her own character definition. Her introduction allowed the Hail, Caesar! to demonstrate to deviate from the character centric setting and indulge in visual spectacle that cinema exceeds in. The underwater musical number visually frames the characters as objects while the scenery supersedes over them, as each dancer are grouped en mass, suggesting that they are in service of their environment, the production studio. However, Moran is individually introduced as the centerpiece, along with the spectacle itself, as they each engage with one another through the intricate editing montage that masks the other dancers, however, positioning herself as the center of focus.

Hail, Caesar! builds each plot thread through the characters interaction with one another and with their respective environment, the Hollywood Studio System. The narrative driven revolves around the character, allowing each primary and secondary character to define themselves as individuals, however, while working within troupes that have been established and portrayed previously.

Written by Angel Perez

Media Enthusiast