There is perhaps no other team in Hollywood so consistently reamed in reviews for misconceptions about their films resulting from their own advertising as are Ethan and Joel Coen. It happened with Intolerable Cruelty; it happened with Burn After Reading; it happened with Inside Llewyn Davis; and now it is happening with Hail, Caesar! as well. Whoever is in charge of marketing these movies is doing a comically bad job.
For the most part, the error is clear: The Coens’ nuanced dark comedies and comedic dramas keep being marketed as flat, uncontroversial, plain old comedies. In my personal opinion, the movie of theirs that was most affected by this disconnect between the total levity of the marketing and the deadpan satire of the film is Burn After Reading. But that’s water under the bridge by now, so instead I would like to spend this article saying exactly what Hail, Caesar! is, and exactly what Hail, Caesar! is not.
The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Hail Caesar!, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.