“Hail Caesar!” is a gentle comedy on the surface, but seems to me more a homage to the glory days of the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s-50s. At that time the “big five” studios (Warner, RKO, Fox, Loew and Paramount) controlled every aspect of film production, from script writing through to distribution. Actors were on contract to a studio, who managed every aspect of their career and their public image.
In this film Tilda Swinton plays Marianne, a major rock star who has had to have a throat operation and is convalescing in a villa on an isolated Mediterranean island. All seems idyllic and Eden-esque (complete with a presumably symbolic local snake) when temptation arrives in the form of her former record producer and ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) who has recently discovered that he has a grown-up daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who is travelling with him during a break from her studies.
The James Bond franchise is now 53 years old and is in its 24th movie and sixth actor. With such a weight of history it is hard for the film makers to be too bold: they have a rigid set of expectations to meet and a $300 million budget to recoup.