Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Hudsucker Proxy

Movie Name: The Hudsucker Proxy
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, John Mahoney, Jim True, Bill Cobbs, Bruce Campbell, Harry Bugin, Joe Grifasi, Steve Buscemi, Anna Nicole Smith, Noble Willingham, Peter Gallagher, Richard Schiff, Mike Starr, Christopher Darga
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

When the "The Hudsucker Proxy" premiered in 1994, the Coen brothers were effectively releasing their first studio film (in this case financed by Warner Brothers, which gave them their first big budget, after years of working on independent films, such as "Blood Simple", "Raising Arizona", "Millers Crossing" and "Barton Fink"). The film follows the story of simpleton Norville Barnes, who is appointed as CEO of a company by one of their scheming directors, in an attempt to take over the control of the destiny of that company. However his plans get derailed when Norville turns out to be an inspired and creative individual. This plan however strikes the curiosity of energetic and driven journalist Amy Archer, who goes undercover to understand what goes on at Hudsucker industries. In the end it's up to Norville to find his inner voice and strength to regain control and overcome all the sabotages that are set to derail him.
The Coens tried with "The Hudsucker Proxy" to capture the whole screwball comedy that was made popular in the 30s and 40s by talented film makers such as Howard Hawks ("Bringing Up Baby", "His Girl Friday") and George Cukor ("The Philadelphia Story"). The film uses the same concepts, with the naive hero who gets dazzled by the bright lights of the big city (and the unexpected success), the cynical and beautiful reporter, and the usual older, villainous tycoon. These archetypes are also on par with what the Coens had worked on some of their early films, particularly "Raising Arizona", but here the brothers mined this universe specifically with the intent to recapture a tone and style, that sadly isn't entirely successful. Tim Robbins creates a central hero with a goofiness and heart, that gives the film it's tender core, while Paul Newman is successfully villainous, however Jennifer Jason Leigh depicts ultimately what fails about the film - for all the technical proficiency exhibited, there's a lack of inventiveness, of feeling about these characters, which in turn makes the viewer not care about their destiny. The cinematography from Roger Deakins is stunning as usual, as is the soundtrack from Carter Burwell (the longtime associates of the Coens). A flawed film, yet worth revisiting for what it suggests and depicts.