The Hudsucker Proxy

Directed by Joel Coen (Ethan Coen uncredited)
Written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi

Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, John Mahoney, Jim True, Bill Cobbs, Bruce Campbell, Harry Bugin.

At the end of 1958, the CEO of Hudsucker Industries, decides to commit suicide. Realising that the company will soon have to go public, the board of directors, now under the care of greedy Mussburger (Newman), decide to hire an idiot to run the company, in order to drop the share prices to nothing, so they can buy them up. When new to town Norville Barnes (Robbins), takes a lowly job in the mail room, a chance meeting with Mussburger has him hired as their patsy. But he may not be the idiot they thought he was.

Impeccably written directed by the Coen brothers, along with fellow filmmaker Raimi as a co writer, it is visually stylish and not only has a neo-noir style to it. Some of the characters are set up to be homage’s of the golden age of cinema. The most obvious example is Leigh’s Amy Archer, who is a clearly an homage to Katharine Hepburn amongst others. I thought maybe her caricature was possibly a decade or so out of date though, as this film was set in the late 1950’s, her persona seemed more early to mid 1940’s.

With the fast paced dialogue, some of the characters, like the bellhop, who speaks with 1950’s esque-idioms, feel like they are out of a cartoon. Supporting characters are almost alternate iterations of other character types (Amy’s chief seems almost J Jonah Jameson from Spiderman, and Amy herself seems almost Lois Lane-esque. The scene where she corrects the spelling of some words had a 1970s Superman feel to it.

The music is from one of my favourite composers Carter Burwell, who is a frequent collaborator with the Coen’s. Here his score is great and takes inspiration from early 20th Century composer Aram Khachaturian.

I quite enjoyed this. I only really watched this in my teens not long after its release, and now as an almost 40 year old. While most of the film worked quite well – I wasn’t sold on the ‘supernatural’ element later in the film. All in all, this feels like a Coen movie right from the opening moments to the closing.


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