Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Hail, Caesar!’ (2016)

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Hollywood in the 1950s was a mosaic of studios, each with its own stable of stars that churned out movies with machine-like efficiency. Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Hail, Caesar!, an exuberant satire of that cinematic era, has installed an unlikely human hub at the center of it all.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is many things. As an executive of Capitol Pictures Studios, he’s a fixer of potential scandals, casting deal maker and celebrity wrangler. In his personal life, he’s a devout Catholic – his substitute for the not-yet-invented smart phone? Rosary beads – and so filled with scruples and indecision about a juicy new job offer that even his confessor grows weary of giving him penance.

As the “head of physical production,” Eddie’s daily task list is a by-the-clock attempt to extinguish simultaneously burning fires. We’re not wrong to think these functions will ultimately help him figure out whether to resign from the studio. But, because these fiery emergencies spring from the clever minds of the Coen brothers, we don’t want them to be doused.

The incendiary event is the kidnapping – by a group of salon-type Communists – of Capitol’s biggest star, handsome but dimwitted Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the featured actor in the studio’s ecumenical and toga-ridden religious offering, “Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ.”

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

While keeping on top of Baird’s disappearance, Eddie’s other activities require his crossing paths with pregnant aquatic star DeeAnna (Scarlett Johansson), a mensch (Jonah Hill), a crooning cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) unable to please a touchy director (Ralph Fiennes), twin gossip columnists (Tilda Swinton), and the studio’s song-and-dance dreamboat (Channing Tatum).

The heart of the Coens’ film is the overlap of archetypal Neptune, which rules seduction and deceit, and reality-tethered Saturn, representing the sordid truths that studios are desperate to keep hidden from the rest of humanity. It’s the Eddies of the world who prop up the business of Hollywood: mounting beautiful lies by preserving shiny veneers. In a clever contrast, the company courting Eddie is Lockheed, involved in different types of wartime atrocities, whose representative states, “Aviation is serious,” assuring his potential hire he’d no longer be “babysitting oddballs and misfits.”

DeeAnna, the swim goddess who’s armed with a trident and is no stranger to mermaid costumes, is as close to underwater, fuzzed-out Neptune as one can get until, in the end, she becomes a realistic problem solver. Tinseltown, the Coens seem to suggest, is everyone’s head trip until it’s not.

Archetype: Art: the Beautiful Lie. Entertainment.

Astrology Archetype: ♆  (Neptune)

 

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