One of the odder films of the Coen brothers. The visuals are fantastic (minus some dodgy 90s CGI); the production design is possibly the best aspect of the film. The worldbuilding is playful and intriguing, and some of the stranger and more inventive aspects of the world actually do impact the story heavily, particularly in the third act.
The cast is a mixed bag, with Jennifer Jason Leigh doing very entertaining work, but the rest of the cast (particularly Tim Robbins) failing to do much interesting with their characters. That is partially the fault of the writing, which seems much more concerned with its own cleverness and strangeness than actually constructing a meaningful story with meaningful characters. The Coens do craft an interesting story here, but I think it’s overfocused on satire, to the point where the film feels more a comment than an actual story. It’s hollow in that way.
I maintain that the story is hollow, but there are a lot of interesting touches the Coens make in conveying it. The motif of circles (the film’s circular nature, the clocks, the two important inventions in the movie) is intriguing and I think there’s a lot of applications, from the circular nature of capitalist business proceedings, to time itself.
I do have my problems with the film but overall I definitely enjoyed it, and I vastly, vastly prefer ambitious messes like this to some of the more commercial and standard efforts later in the brother’s career (Burn After Reading, The Ladykillers, etc.).
I give it three hula-hoops, and a flexi-straw.