A new Coen Brothers film always lives up to the hype, doesn’t it?
Picture the scene if you will:
I’m surrounded by a lot of people in just an ordinary, local cinema, and they’re all laughing – a lot.
This is a screening of Hail, Caesar! a film endowed with a stella cast performing at the top of their game, benefiting hugely from an intelligent, sharp, witty script awash with satire and political and cultural references. Not only that, it’s being directed by arguably the two hottest properties in Hollywood film direction, and all around me, people are at times howling with laughter; that’s right… howling with laughter!
So why am I still not laughing?
Yes, I crack the odd wry smile, emit an occasional snigger here and there and I’ll own up even to a couple of actual laughs out loud, but here, in this cinema, I’m either sitting amongst a couple of hundred corpsing Ricky Gervais clones on nitrous oxide that simply can’t help themselves, or this is clearly some funny shit, and more fool me for being the one unable to appreciate it.
In 1998, the Coen Brothers unleashed the The Big Lebowski upon the cinema-going public. It soared in popularity up into the lofty realms of ‘cult classic’ – deemed by all and sundry to be The Coen Brothers’ enduring masterpiece. Most importantly of all though, it was unanimously declared to be… an absolute laugh riot!!
Only, it was none of those things; at least not to me.
It was an ok, mildly amusing, plodding dirge of a film when compared to so much of their other, far superior output, with a propensity for the over-use of the word ‘dude.’ Basking as it did in the plaudits and gushing adulation, it quickly became my film nemesis.
I have put myself through 6 (SIX) screenings of The Big Lebowski in the ensuing years, determined to finally see what all of the fuss was about – to finally ‘get it,’ yet time and again, its ‘charms’ continue to evade me.
So, what possible relevance does this have to The Coen Brothers’ latest piece, Hail, Caesar!?
I read somewhere that The Coen Brothers “have found their funny again.” That inexcusable, throwaway phrase apart, I will say this: The Coen Brothers have not found their funny again, because I’m not convinced they ever had a ‘funny’ in the first place, at least not a ‘funny’ in that uncontrollable, laugh-out-loud sense, for that ladies and gentlemen is what we’re talking about here – slapstick Laurel & Hardy, early neurotic Woody Allen, The Life of Brian – that kind of ‘funny’.
What they have done is written and directed a perfectly watchable, nicely put together, intelligent, mildly amusing, often silly, light-hearted bit of nonsense, bolstered by an excellent cast.
I actually enjoyed it in spite of my reservations. It was a most welcome piece of light entertainment on an otherwise miserable day.
But they were all laughing… like hyenas?!!
Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps I’m just too swayed by the weight of public opinion?
I do love a good Coen Brothers film, but once in a while they go and throw in a Big Lebowski and now they’ve hurled Hail, Caesar! into the mix, just to add to my confusion and compound my misery.
There’s only one thing for it; I must go away and re-watch it, 6, maybe 7 (SEVEN) times… and almost inevitably arrive back at the very same conclusion I came to in the first place.
C’est la vie.