“What went we out in this wilderness to find–leaving our country, kindred, our father’s houses–for what? For the kingdom of God.” Should have stayed home, bro. The Witch opens on February 19 and it’s been spooking the socks off critics since Sundance. The director, Robert Eggers, has previously directed only two shorts–one an adapation of a Grimm fairy tale and the other an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story. This impressive feature debut combines the dark whimsy of a fairy tale with the gothic horror of Poe. Slight spoilers ahead:
“Hail, Caesar!” takes place in the Golden Age of Hollywood. We see the motion picture business through the eyes of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “fixer,” employed by Capital Pictures to solve any and all problems that might stop production, lose money, or compromise the image of the studio’s biggest stars. The hours are long and irregular. He often eats meals alone, his kids already in bed. He smokes against his wife’s wishes. Every night, he confesses the previous day’s sins to a priest.
But Eddie Mannix is conflicted. He’s being courted by the Lockheed Corporation, which specializes in aerospace. They’re offering him a better title, better pay, and better hours so that he can see his kids more often. He meets secretly at lunch with a Lockheed representative. He shows Mannix a photo of a mushroom cloud over the Pacific Ocean, the detonation of the hydrogen bomb. “We’re invested in the future,” he says. At the film’s end, Mannix pens a response to the offer: “Thanks but no thanks.” He’s happy working for the movie industry. The camera lurches over the studio warehouses to give us a full, glorious view of Hollywood, California. It’s a moment of mock-triumph, but I didn’t feel the mocking and was left looking for the triumph.