This is a bizarre, borderline directionless film full of too many ideas, some of which are quite good and funny, but too many of which do not appear to be necessary to the story such as it is.
I avoided this one for years, perhaps because I heard bad things about it, and possibly because I overcame my Coen Brothers obsession sometime before this came out.
So, this movie is a number of different things:
- it’s a weird Hollywood parody with a story about a film noir detective as a movie producer (which is a weird conceit to put it mildly) trying to solve a kidnapping of his movie star by a bunch of communists
- but it’s full of diversions into the movies being made by his studio
- and there’s also a completely unnecessary subplot about one of the starlets at the studio who is pregnant.
It’s hard to know what to make of it. Though there are a number of really funny moments, and the overall satire of Golden Age Hollywood feels very, very accurate, the whole thing feels kind of pointless. I’m not the kind of person to wonder what the “point” of a film was, but this time it feels like this is a lot of set pieces signifying nothing. The film is not particularly coherent and at times it feels like it’s pretty cynical (which is something coming from me). The whole thing feels like they are just taking digs at a bunch of movie conventions they don’t particularly like and a bunch of references to various things in Hollywood history, and they came up with a (not much of a) plot to try to frame it.
I can’t say it worked at all, really. On the other hand, I laughed a fair amount, and a lot of satire of classic Hollywood was pretty on point. And I’d rather watch an interesting mess than a boring mediocrity.