3.5 out of 5 stars
Unable to match the succinctness of my fellow Subtitled Friend’s review, I am taking the opposite approach and go long. While I was once again dazzled by Coen Brothers’ latest, I find it difficult to write something that befits the film because I was feeling so very conflicted. Knowing that it is a Coen lite beforehand, I still want to love the film and admittedly, it is an immensely funny and meticulous script, yet there is also little drama to speak of even though it is brimming with (short) stories and ideas. The script feels sketchy and a little disconnected and I keep searching for a coherent meaning underlying it all and come up empty. The film is like their Greatest Hits album, mashing up Barton Fink (Hollywood), The Hudsucker Proxy (50s comedy), Raising Arizona (kidnap) and A Serious Man (a day in the life of someone with an existential crisis) and pays a loving tribute to Hollywood studio films like Inside Llewyn Davis did for the folk music scene. There is a stellar cast (Burn After Reading) and George Clooney playing an idiot again (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), immaculately rendered and faithfully reproduced films of various genres (the big musical number in The Big Lebowski comes to mind) and absurd yet profound meditative detours into the exploration of faith and the meaning of life (OK, that could be any of their movies). Watching this is like watching 6 films for the price of one and while you are always entertained, it feels a little insubstantial and superficial in the end. My futile search for meaning and themes in this film seemingly mirrors the same frustrating search for meaning in our existence (a sentiment you can find in nearly every ending of their films) at which point I realized that I probably should have just go with the flow and enjoy it while it lasts.