Three Hollywood luminaries of varying fame & wattage were said to ‘know where all the bodies were buried.’ All took their secrets to the grave. One was child (and ape) actor Roddy McDowall; the other two, M-G-M hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff & M-G-M studio ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix. Enter the Brothers Coen (Ethan & Joel), out to make a sort of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL pastiche satire of ‘50s scandals & studio backlot skullduggery. Sounds fun, sounds right up Coen Snark Alley. Alas, they chose the wrong tour guide!; passing on hair-dresser confidant Guilaroff (knows all, tells nothing, takes on intractable problems & permanent waves) for infamous sweep-it-under-the-carpet/tough-guy Mannix. Kind of a flat creative decision, no? Well, it probably wouldn’t have mattered much, since the crises are either ho-hum or overly far-fetched (Commie Kidnap Conspiracy; Pregnant Unwed Swimming Star; Singing Cowboy Goes Drawing Room); and the pastiche song-and-dance; Aquacade; and Biblical Epic stuff not nearly as funny as the real thing. (Though one multi-hued set in the QUO VADIS take-off is gratifyingly hideous.) For the rest, Tilda Swinton is a treat playing twin gossip columnists not as Hedda Hopper & Louella Parsons, the forgotten models, but as Cate Blanchett. Hilarious! And Alden Ehrenreich charmingly lassos his way toward stardom.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: The Coen boys find more legit laughs in their dramas than they do in ostensible comedies like this, THE LADYKILLERS/’04 or THE HUDSUCKER PROXY/94.