Loosely plotted along a cell of Communist writers kidnapping a movie star for ransom money and a studio fixers attempts to get him returned, this film is a series of vignettes playing with classic Hollywood figures and movie tropes, a homage to a bygone era of cinema as well as a lampooning of that time.
Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) was a real studio fixer, notorious for saving the reputations of many a Hollywood star, and hospitalising his girlfriends if they dared to defy him. Here, he is a hard working, respected man who has to do things that no one else wants to do. He’s the thread that runs through the story, from unmarried pregnant starlets needing to legitimise their unborn children, to humble western trick performers being pushed into drawing room drama pictures, and feeding stories to voracious and powerful gossip reporters.
Some have criticised the film as being a series of scenes, of small plots, but it’s more a walk through the old studio system. A fascinating piece of history, when studios owned stars and made their public images, and had enough power to hide or cover up anything. It was also a time when there was a great public fear of Communism, which would lead to the awful McCarthy witch trials so poignantly brought to life in Trumbo. All of this has quite a corrupt and cycnical element to it, but here it is all fun, games and looking at how ridiculous it all was compared to normal life. Another Coen gem.
See It If: you like old classic Hollywood, because this has drama, dance numbers, and inside jokes galore.