movies leaving netflix

Inside Alden Ehrenreich

When Oscar Isaac was cast in Inside Llewyn Davis a few years back, you could hear film fandom’s collective “Who?” This was before A Most Violent Year and Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Show Me a Hero. This was back when Isaac was just an interesting actor who had small roles Drive, Robin Hood, and The Bourne Legacy. The Coens casting Oscar Isaac right before he became Oscar Isaac was a canny move. In retrospect, the film now stars one of the best and most beloved actors working right now.

Is that how we’re going to feel about Alden Ehrenreich in a few years? In a film where virtually every single part is played by a movie star or a recognizable character actor, Ehrenreich still manages to stand out. Hell, he doesn’t just stand out – he steals the movie from everyone else around him. His Hobie Doyle is the best character in movie and the catalyst for its biggest laughs and even some of its most important dramatic punches. This is a role that could have easily gone to a movie star or someone with recognizable face. Instead, some guy who starred in Beautiful Creatures nabbed the part and he owns it. This is the kind of performance that puts an actor on the map. In a few years, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to recognize him as part of a star-studded ensemble and not the lone exception.

Hobie Doyle works in the same way that Fargo‘s Marge Gunderson works. He’s a blue collar guy stuck in a world that underestimates him. He’s an honest man, a good person, operating within a system that isn’t always pleasant or warm or instantly rewarding. And because he has a funny accent and because he’s not sophisticated, he looks to be the butt of the joke, a vehicle for “Haha, look at the rube!” gags. But the Coens actually respect his convictions and ultimately reward his loyalty and showcase his sharp instincts. While so many of the other characters in Hail, Caesar! operate in the shadows, Hobie is as honest as they get. This kind of straightforward, homespun hero is hard to capture without looking too simplistic, but Ehrenreich imbues him with the right amount of soul and quiet wit.

O Brother Where Art Thou

O History, Where Art Thou?

It’s possible to watch and enjoy Hail, Caesar! without knowing much about the golden age of Hollywood, but it becomes all the more amusing when you can start to connect the historical dots. I’m initially reminded of films like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Barton Fink, which take place in specific times and in specific places to take very specific advantage of those settings, but Hail, Caesar! actually takes the Coens’ interest in Americana to the next level.

While many characters in the sprawling ensemble have real-word counterparts, only Brolin’s Eddie Mannix has a name directly taken from actual Hollywood history. A notorious “fixer” for MGM, the real Mannix was a nasty piece of work, a real sonuvabitch, who helped shape the narrative of his studio’s talent by force. You may remember him in Hollywoodland (where he was played by Bob Hoskins), a film that didn’t shy away from his more villainous qualities. That the Eddie Mannix of Hail, Caesar! is a good man at heart who feels tremendous shame for what he has to do in the name of moving pictures feels like a quietly brilliant gag for anyone who knows a thing or two about the real guy.

The same joke applies to “The Future,” the cabal of Communist screenwriters who conspire to abduct George Clooney‘s movie star and ransom him to empower their Soviet cause. In a year where well-meaning but ultimately forgettable movies like Trumbo reminded us that the Hollywood blacklist remains one of the most shameful moments in the history of the film industry, the always-sneaky Coens have crafted an entire subplot that concerns left-leaning screenwriters actually doing what so many men and women were false accused of doing in reality: using the movies to spew Communist propaganda to weaken America at its core. It’s an incredibly specific joke, so much so that it may not even initially read as a joke, but the Coen brothers’ twisted inversion of Hollywood history is a joy. This isn’t reality, but rather a reality that so many people actually thought existed (although it never did), filtered through farce.

Continue Reading The Future and the Past: How ‘Hail, Caesar!’ Fits in the Coen Canon >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web: