Many people might forget this, but the Coens haven't released a new movie since their 2013 masterwork Inside Llewyn Davis. I figured the next film would be something comic and light and surely thats what we're getting. HAIL, CEASAR! belongs in the same tradition as Burn After Reading and The Big Lebowski, which to me is a great thing.
These are the kind of movies the Coens take a break on and after tackling heavy subjects like Fargo and No Country For Old Men. They are usually quite potty, juggling an insane amount if plot strands until.. Well.. Until the plot just doesn't matter anymore. This new "plot entanglement" that the Coens have concocted isn't as good as Lebowski or Reading, but it sure does have its moments. Very Coen-esque moments in fact.
The fact that they got all of these big stars to play what essentially or practically all small roles is both impressive and part of the fun in deciphering where the hell the whole thing is going. Through this nutso ode to Hollywood's golden age you try figure out what kind of impact stars such as Clooney or Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum or Tilda Swinton or Scarlett Johansen will have on the film's overall narrative. A second viewing, like many Coen gems, will probably run a little smoother.
That's the the thing about Joel and Ethan Coens movies, sometimes a second viewing is mandatory after you've figure out all the plot flow and curveballs, the second time you can actually just sit down and absorb the whole damn thing without having to be caught by surprise every few seconds by the narrative unpredictability.