Let me try to write this review without using worn-out sentences like “Heartfelt Homage”, “Love Letter to Cinema” and “Old Hollywood Glamour” (good luck to me). Because the latest effort from the Coen Brothers is all of that, yet, it manages to be a quite interesting (and very fun) amalgamation of both things old and new wrapped into a delightfully twisted package. I think both you and the film deserve so much more.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the haze of old school beauty, specially when it comes to film: from nostalgic visuals to the gorgeous now classic tunes. What I find fascinating about this project is that it doesn’t care about recreating memorable scenes from that era, but haves fun with the idea of “how would it be like to have worked back then with these actors?’, which makes for a much more enthralling ride.
It is quite enjoyable to watch the cast evoke classic stars (with different names): Scarlett Johansson as Esther Williams, Veronica Osorio as Carmen Miranda and Channing Tatum as Gene Kelly. Tatum’s performance will keep you glued to the screen during his (even if short) time on camera, moving with flawless elegance through intricate and elaborate choreographies. I would also ad “charisma” and “good-looking”, but again, trying to move away from the recurrent (and obvious) here.
But if you ask me the best elements (or in this case actors) aren’t even highlighted in the trailers: Josh Brolin and Alden Ehrenreic. Brolin is brilliant as Eddie Manix, an executive studio “fixer” of some sorts, who needs to deal in hilarious ways with all the madness behind the scenes. Ehrenreic plays a delightfully charming cowboy, whose quirky ways stand in the way of him becoming a serious actor. His scene alongside Ralph Fiennes is the funniest thing I’ve seen so far this year.
I almost forgot the last one: “Labor of Love”. The Coens are incredibly movie savvy, and the way they decided to approached it here is not showing you exactly how these films where made, but instead glorify the beauty and magic they carried. The skyline is purposely imperfect and fake looking at times. You can almost tell where a stunt is performed by a double, but never do. The real world and the movie world coexist and move along together seamlessly, making you feel even more immersed in the fantasy. Almost as an allegory to their own career, this effort is just skillful, smart and widely entertaining, showing their appreciation for the media without neither cynicism nor fanfare, yet the result are, as always, just fascinating. And there’s nothing wrong in being repetitive about that.