The Hudsucker Proxy Reviews
While I did have some problems figuring out those boundaries in the world they created, it was still a very interesting creation. I loved the idea of the quickly flipping boards that showed job openings that were available, and the ticker-tapes that just constantly filled the Hudsucker offices. It felt exaggerated just enough to add humor, but not so extreme that it was cartoony. That's not to say I mind those moments when the magical realism hits and it becomes somewhat cartoony. It actually adds something to the humor of the situations, and I love how the screenwriters basically cheat in order to get the protagonist out of a difficult situation. I didn't enjoy the seeming battle between good and evil they threw in, because that felt unnecessarily heavy-handed, but it didn't hurt the story very much. I will say that one of the oddest decisions they made was setting the movie in the 1950s, but then inserting Amy Archer (a reporter played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) who feels like she was plucked out of a 1930s film. She is way over-the-top, and I didn't like how she contrasted with everything else that was going on. In fact her entire character rubbed me the wrong way. Despite a few minor missteps I still found The Hudsucker Proxy to be an extremely fun film that entertained throughout. I was genuinely surprised by how much I laughed, and I would gladly watch it again whenever I have the opportunity.
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
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.