The Hudsucker Proxy Reviews

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Taylor N October 16, 2014
I guess this is supposed to be a comedy but it's barely funny at all.
Giovanni M. Giovanni M. September 14, 2014
A bizarre misfire, The Hudsucker Proxy was a movie that I wanted to like a lot because I like the Coen Brothers, I like Tim Robbins, and I like hula hoops, but overall this movie is just trying to be quirky for the sake of being quirky.
Alec B
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2011
A unfairly maligned and disregarded Coen brothers film. It's aged better than a lot of early 90s comedies (mostly likely due to it's unique visual style) and the performances of Robbins, Leigh, and Newman all have just the right amount of over-the-top intensity.
Adam R ½ February 15, 2010
(First and only viewing - 12/6/2010)
Cameron W. Johnson Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2014
By this time in 1994, the Coen brothers were still on something of a high from the biting drama "Barton Fink", while Robbins was wrapping up with "The Shawshank Redemption", so, of course, the only natural progression from there is a screwball comedy. You know, I think that you should probably figure out what you're in for when you find that this business-themed period piece is about the invention of the hula-hoop, and even approaches such subject matter loosely, but hey, if anyone can make subject matter like that interesting, well, the Coens wouldn't be my first choice, even if "Blood Simple" was already ten years old by the release of this film. I joke about how the Coens are expected to do straight pictures, but "Barton Fink" was quite the colorful black comedy, and keep in mind that the Coens also had "Raising Arizona" under their belt by this time, so over-the-top comedy was more expected than dry dramas like "Blood Simple". Well, I don't exactly know why they had to go through the trouble of having the script co-written by Sam Raimi, who was still on a high from "Army of Darkness", unless Raimi owed the Coens for getting them to co-write "Crimewave" when they were up-and-comers who couldn't afford big flops like that. Shoot, if you ask me, I'd say Rami owes the Coens again for this film, because I don't know if the Coens and Raimi have quite the same taste in slapstick. They must have been throwing someone off with this collaboration, because this film was a critical disappointment, and, boy howdy, was it ever a financial disappointment, and yet, compared to "Crimewave", it's a successful as, well, "The Shawshank Redemption". In terms of quality, however, well, I don't know what to tell you, because, like everyone else, I didn't see "Crimewave", but I can tell you that this film is decent on its own, no matter how hard it may be to keep from comparing this flick to others.

By this time, the Coen brothers had made their share of filmmaking breakthroughs, but here, they don't simply fail too innovate, but have a tendency to underplay satire to the point of making the tropes feel more trite than self-aware, and when these thematic conventions meet structural conventions, you end up with a surprisingly formulaic telling of a tale of limited consequence to begin with. As you can imagine, this film's story concept is nothing special, being mostly fluffy with only an ambition for wit, rather than meat, which is distancing enough without being largely defined by characters who, even on paper, are thinly drawn and unlikable in a lot of ways. It's hard to not question a lot of elements in the film's narrative ideas, and their interpretation doesn't help, as the Coens' and Sam Raimi's script flaunts its share of set pieces which are too improbable to be embraced in the concept of an intentionally screwball plot, and of dialogue pieces which are snappy to the point of freneticism, further reflected within many moments of hyper directorial overstylization. On many more occasions than I expected, storytelling gets to be overwrought to the point of doing away with subtlety, and when it's not doing that, it's annoying with all of its over-the-top fluff, until freneticism is abandoned a little too decidedly. More than it is aggravatingly break-neck, this fluff piece's pacing is uneven, thus, when it's not moving way too fast, it's moving way too slow, ultimately reaching a runtime of almost two hours that is hardly reasonable, with repetitious filler and expendable material that stiffen pacing enough without the application of that classic Coen thoughtfulness which simply doesn't belong in a film like this. The film can't seem to figure out if it wants to be pure fluff or something of another clever Coen opus, and such a lack of decisiveness makes the film neither lively enough to be fun nor restrained enough to be subtle, until the final product finds itself falling quite shy of potential, limited though it may be. Nonetheless, the film entertains enough to get by, with wit, color and, of course, style.

If nothing else, this film ranks among the strongest collaborations between the Coen brothers and Carter Burwell, whose score, ostensibly partly inspired by Sam Raimi's involvement in this project, adopts a certain Danny Elfman whimsy that, while not especially unique, adds to the colorful flavor of the film's artistic value. Roger Deakins' subtly tastefully toned and stylishly staged cinematography catches eyes, as surely as Burwell's efforts captures ears, though that might largely be because the handsome lensing falls over handsome art direction, courtesy of Leslie McDonald, who subtly, but distinctly captures the 1950s setting which do a lot to define this story. More defining of the film is themes on business sleaze and corruption, and a fluffy flavor, both of which are either too underplayed or overblown to make an especially intriguing story concept, but still stand firm enough to craft some interesting, if formulaic ideas that the Coens and Sam Raimi, as screenwriters, do justice about as much as they betray, with memorable highlights in colorful characterization, and thoroughly clever highlights in snappy dialogue and dynamic humor which ranges from subtly satirical to delightfully over-the-top and screwball. Likely because the Coens' and Raimi's tastes in comical and structural subtlety clash, the film is often either obnoxious or underwhelming with its color, of which there is enough for the script to stand as generally solid, sold by the Coens' direction, perhaps too much so. The Coens go all-out in beating you over the head with the subtlety lapses, and blanding things up with momentum lapses, but at the same time, they go all-out in selling the many highlights in fluff as entertaining, partly by working well with talented performers, as usual. Granted, more than a few performances are a little over-the-top, but just about everyone shines with charm, alone, with Jennifer Jason Leigh being impressively committed in her delivery of admittedly obnoxious rapid-fire dialogue, while Paul Newman proves to be effective as a generic sleaze, and leading man Tim Robbins proves to be particularly charming as an everyman audience avatar, distinguished by some somewhat dramatic layering that Robbins nails with a surprising amount of subtlety. Like I said, the film has difficulty in gaining a grip on its style, but it never lets entertainment value slips too far from its fingers, standing firm enough throughout the final product's course to craft a fair opus, in spite of its messiness.

Overall, there are formulaic elements to the telling of a thin and improbable story concept, in addition to many an obnoxiously over-the-top and many a blandly draggy momentum, thus, the final product falls as pretty underwhelming, but not to where whimsical scoring, immersive art direction, generally sharply colorful writing and direction, and charming performances fail to carry "The Hudsucker Proxy" as a somewhat forgettable, but nonetheless adequately lively satire on the sleaze of company business.

2.5/5 - Fair
Simon D ½ December 1, 2013
It's not often you get a film where almost all the characters annoy you. This has to be one of the Coen brothers worst films.
Anand K ½ May 21, 2014
overacting at its absolute worst
Martin S May 10, 2014
A film where every scene is a microcosm according to a success-failure-success-recipe.
Giovanni M April 30, 2014
A bizarre misfire, The Hudsucker Proxy was a movie that I wanted to like a lot because I like the Coen Brothers, I like Tim Robbins, and I like hula hoops, but overall this movie is just trying to be quirky for the sake of being quirky.
Blake P March 20, 2014
When the Coen Brothers do comedy, they don't just sit there and hope to write good jokes. They go all out, fit with winking black humor, loony visual cues, and zippy physical comedy that moves faster than a hot bullet. "The Hudsucker Proxy", which is most likely their least remembered project in their lengthy filmography, proves that, even without critical acclaim or a cult fan base on its side, the Coen Brothers, on their worst day, are better than most.
Tim Robbins portrays Norville Barnes, a chipper yet blissfully unaware man from Indiana who dreams to make it big in the city. Lucky for him, he lands a mailing job at the massive Hudsucker Industries, which stretches 45 stories and boasts gigantic economic power. Barnes may not be the brightest bulb in the ceiling, but he does have an idea for a new children's toy, and he believes that if he presents it to executive Sidney J. Mussberger (Paul Newman), he could make it big.
Just as Barnes is hired, company president Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning) dramatically commits suicide (during a meeting on the 44th floor, he runs down the board room table, jumps through the window, and lands with a cringeworthy splat on the pavement), so literally, Barnes is going up just as Hudsucker is going down. Desperate to head the company, Mussberger realizes that, if he hires an incompetent individual for Hudsucker's old job, it will devalue the stock, and therefore, the company will be forced to hire him to pick up the pieces.
When Barnes finally does get the chance to show his idea to Mussberger, the recipe for disaster begins and Barnes' luck goes from deliriously fantastic to drearily low.
Looking towards the screwball comedy mastery of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra, "The Hudsucker Proxy" takes the formula of the classic genre and scrambles it up into something that can only be described as Coen-esque, if that's even a thing. The film moves at such a breakneck speed that by the time it all slows down, we can't help but want to gasp for air.
The film is bent towards the satirical side of things, set with massively mounted art-deco design and a city so exaggerated that it stinks with the glittery fakery of a Rogers and Astaire vehicle. All of the characters are written in the spirit of a cartoon, with executives chewing on fat cigars, to the heroine spitting out witty lines that seem to mimic Katharine Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby", if she were on acid.
The ensemble embodies the loopy parts given to them - Jennifer Jason Leigh especially has her part nailed, a Rosalind Russell inspired reporter that wins the heart of Barnes.
Modern screwball comedies never seem to work, but "The Hudsucker Proxy" is something special. While in its roots, it's a stunning homage, it manages to have a sort of punch in the gut mindset that keeps everything fittingly loopy.
Zach H February 4, 2014
In terms of its eye-popping visuals, witty banter and Tim Robbins's aw-shucks performance, this is my pick for the most delightful of all the Coens' films.
Kerby H ½ February 4, 2014
This movie was super weird in its style and direction. It's meant to be a black comedy and all of the actors were intentionally overacting, but neither is done well.
Jacob H ½ January 27, 2014
Performances are serviceable, and the sets are nice, but an extremely contrived ending and some idiotic characters mar this film terribly.
Jason M ½ January 18, 2011
Never comes together. Lots of wacky, not enough of anything else.
Amanda A January 5, 2014
Fun movie that is totally over the top... and super funny. Everyone should watch it at least once in their life.
Kinch K ½ December 28, 2013
Never thought I could dislike a Coen brothers film this much. What a crock of over-written, under-thought, way-too-long crap.
Nickolas I ½ December 10, 2013
It's nowhere near as well-written, acted, or directed as the Coen's other efforts, but it's still a fun and humorous way to pass the time.
John B ½ September 6, 2007
If there is a Coen Brothers film that deserves a re-evaluation, it's this one. Granted, there are some flaws, but you can't help but be entertained throughout this film.
Jeremy S ½ December 5, 2013
The Coens' most easy-going film, this is criminally underrated. The production design is flawless, and the art-decco look is very stylish and fun. It's also wacky and untamed comedy in good old Coen style. Sit down with the family for this one; it's the only movie where you and your intelligent 8-year-old can enjoy some of Joel and Ethan's gleefully original humor.
Tomer H December 1, 2013
Probably the Coens' least best, The Hudsucker Proxy is a film that bears a distinguished resemblance to its hero - both are imbeciles.
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