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on July 14, 2001
Two things killed this movie at the box office when it was first released: first, its title. Americans didn't seem to know what a "proxy" was, much less a hudsucking one. The second was its time of release. The movie came out in May as an early summer release but was actually a movie that would have been better received at Christmas. "Jaws" is a prototypical summer film. "It's A Wonderful Life," by comparison, would hardly be a summer blockbuster but sets the perfect tone for the holiday season. Come back in twenty years and you will find that "The Hudsucker Proxy" IS the Frank Capra classic for a new generation. It is Capra meets "Metropolis" blended with the smart humor of the Coens. The casting is near perfect. Tim Robbins is the naive and goofy savant. Paul Newman is as wonderful a villain as you will find as the evil Sidney Mussberger. Only Jennifer Jason Leigh takes a bit of getting used to as the tough talking reporter but she will move you by movie's end. I've had to beg, plead, wheedle and cajole my friends through the years to watch this movie and not let themselves be turned off by its title. Thus far it's left no one disappointed.
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on March 5, 2002
Massively undervalued thematic sequel to *Barton Fink*. I say that because *The Hudsucker Proxy* (a bad title that guaranteed box-office oblivion, btw) treads a lot of the same water as the earlier film: hucksterism, commericalism, the notion that one person can singlehandedly come up with One Great Idea -- in short, the American Dream. This time, it's the world of business instead of Hollywood, but the corporate fatcats at Hudsucker Industries are relevant enough "proxies" for movie-studio fatcats; i.e., the point is well-taken. Indeed, the movie is -- as most Coen Brothers movies are -- about movies themselves, and you're not giving the Coens enough credit if you think *The Hudsucker Proxy* is merely a send-up of some Frank Capra movie. It's a send-up of the entire film industry, which is pretty cheeky, considering that this was their first "big-budget, major-studio" production. If you must have it: the plot concerns a doe-eyed graduate of Muncie Business College who winds up in the basement mailroom at Hudsucker Industries in New Yawk City. The President of the company has just taken a swan-dive from the 45th floor (not counting the mezzanine). Meanwhile, the fatcats on the Board of Directors, of which Paul Newman is the cattiest, come up with the brilliant idea of promoting a moron to the President's chair in order to devalue Hudsucker stock -- that way, they can buy up the remaining shares of the company, after which the moron can be comfortably dispensed with. But Tim Robbins, the putative moron, has one killer idea up his sleeve that throws a monkeywrench in the gears. But don't take all this too seriously. The fun's in the details . . . and, let's face it, you probably have to be in on the joke to really appreciate what the Coens are doing here. Meaning? They assume you have a knowledge of old-movie conventions, and that you appreciate the homage this movie pays to them. Basically, they insist that you bring something to the party. They insist you get off your Lazy-Boy and meet them halfway. Oh, by the way: the movie's hilarious, too.
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on February 18, 2000
The Hudsucker Proxy is one of my favorite movies of all time. I won't go over what's so great about it because you can get all that just as well by reading the other reviews on this page.
I do want to address the quality of the DVD, however. While the DVD does offer both standard and widescreen mode (anamorphic, no less), it decidedly comes across as a sub-par job. The transfer is terrible, dark and grainy in places and completely washed-out in others (the dancing scene made me wonder if something was wrong with my player). The sound is in Dolby stereo rather than the 5.1 channel surround just about everything post-1990 is available in. Not to mention the complete lack of extras: no actor bios, commentary (which I would have really liked to have seen) -- not even a theatrical trailer. For a movie of this quality, I would have expected a lot more.
I love this movie, so I got it anyway and am happy with it (after all, it won't deteriorate like VHS). But don't expect a Matrix quality disk or anything.
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on August 23, 1999
The movie's middle third is unbelievably funny, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is perfect. Buscemi shows up briefly during a scene at the Beatnik bar. The DVD isn't of great quality, though. The first hint comes from the fact that "Ethan" (as in "Coen") is spelled "Ethen" in the jewel case's blurb. As soon as you begin watching, you'll notice the graininess in the opening shots, and some jaggies during a pan from Tim Robbins on the ledge. The DVD is ok from then on, until you get to the dancing sequence with the white background. So, the disc is a hack job (maybe that explains the low price, too), but the movie is so well done you can overlook it for all but about 10 seconds.
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on February 25, 2013
Finally Warner Bros has given the hidden gem of the Coen Bros the Blu Ray treatment that I'll certainly add to my collection. This film will have you laughing all the way to the 44th floor...45 counting the mezzanine! It's a wonderful tribute to the classic working class comedies of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra from the 40's. Jennifer especially gives a knockout performance in a great Katharine Hepburn impression as a fast talking girl Friday type undercover reporter Amy Archer. It tanked in theatres but die-hard Coen Bros fans love this buried treasure. If you love the screwy comedy of the Coen Bros less so than Raising Arizona though still one of their best then order The Hudsucker Proxy. You'll really love it. Sure, sure!
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on November 10, 2001
In The Hudsucker Proxy the Coen brothers tackle the genre of classic American studio-produced comedy. It talks like the 30's, looks like the 40's and is set in a 50's New York that only exists as the workplace. The film, like any film by the Coens, is populated with characters that feel like they're something less than wholly human. The directors push their characters toward emulating the past's character actors with such uncanny precision that they become misshapen. None of these characters has a home or a life outside the workplace. The film, which follows the rise and fall of a mailroom clerk (Tim Robbins) that lives and creates the American dream, exists entirely within the tight sphere of its genre, and to stop to suggest more would only detract from the overall, streamlined effect.
In my opinion, The Hudsucker Proxy is the closest the Coen brothers have come to creating a mission statement. It's a clever satire of the phoniness of the studio system's product that simultaneously seems to be celebrating it (or, perhaps, its ability to expose its own falseness). There's such a corporate cleanliness and symmetry to the film that one suspects the brothers' main target is assembly line, Hollywood-ized narrative itself. It's probably not coincidental that this film was the first Coen brothers film with a significant budget (over $30 million). The film's key sequence, and perhaps the key to understanding all of the Coens' work, is one in which a female reporter's (Jennifer Jason Leigh - channeling Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell) investigations into what makes the Hudsucker Company tick take on a bold literal dimension. She meets Moses, a black custodian (a part that would feel racist if not for the film's satiric bent) that tends to the firm's oversized clock. The keeper of the machinery, he is the only person that understands the events as they transpire. He explains to Leigh's reporter the circularity of the situation and predicts the outcome of the events. The assertion here is that these characters act as they do because they've been programmed like machine parts to do so in order to achieve the film's desired outcome. In this film, which has been programmed so that the little guy will "win", he isn't even free to lose, since the story is ultimately being told by the big guys - complete with their biases, stereotypes, and rigid sense of class structure. They've been getting rich off of selling the little guy a simpleminded, counterfeit dream that he eats up time and again. Worse yet, many little guys are tricked into thinking the big guy's version of their dreams is actually their dream. When the film closes with Moses' narration, his knowledge of another, similar, story that took place on an even higher floor that this one did sounds like nothing less than a threat.
It's rare to see such directness in a Coen brothers production, as they usually seem somewhat aloof about their motives. This film seems to be the key to understanding their work as a whole. Every head whip and hand swing of Leigh's character has to be accompanied by a whooshing sound because that's the requirement of the genre taken to its full extreme. They pump up the falseness inherent in this sort of character stereotype until it reaches its breaking point. In some of their films, such as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the bubble breaks revealing nothing profound underneath the façade. In their better films like this one, and The Big Lebowski, their best film, they manage to make that core of hollowness a reprimand to the ideals that the film's very specific time and place represent. Here, Hollywood's corporate perception of the American dream being a direct function of ingenuity and hard work seems to be the target. The inevitability of the story's outcome and the pre-destined happiness of its stars both feel like arbitrary rules a cruel game. And cruelly, at the film's end, there's little implication that the future holds anything but more of the same.
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on October 3, 2003
If Fargo could bag an Oscar, The Hudsucker Proxy should be Required Viewing. To put it simply, this is sheer genius on tape, there really is so little not to like about this film.
The Coens attempted to revive the screwball comedy genre, and boy did they do it. Tim Robbins enjoys himself immensely as the gormless mailroom boy promoted to company President in the space of one day as a patsy to allow boardroom creeps to gain control of the Hudsucker company. Jennifer Leigh's amalgam of Katharine Hepburn/Rosalind Russell/Jean Arthur (from the 1930s) is priceless. I personally felt Paul Newman was a bit wasted in his role, but that's just me.
However, these performances would be for nothing if it wasn't for the marvellous script- witness the boardroom scenes in which the directors discuss how many floors it was that Mr Hudsucker fell ("not including the mezzanine") or the scene in which they interrogate Norville about his new invention. The script is also responsible for the fantastic line "Y'know, for kids!" which means nothing if you haven't seen the movie but now always makes me laugh whenever I think of it.
Film making at its finest. Rent it, steal it, embezzle it -- but watch this gem!
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VINE VOICEon November 21, 2002
Modern fables are not the stuff that make Hollywood movie studio executives see dollar signs. As we can surmise from their dearth in the market, few good ones make it past the initial pitch. So all of us should be surprised when one does filter past the naysayers and make it to the silver screen.
"The Hudsucker Proxy" is a beautiful fable crafted by those two Hollywood nose-thumbers, Joel and Ethan Coen ("Raising Arizona", "Fargo", "The Big Lebowski"), my picks for best filmmakers of the last fifteen years. In "Hudsucker" they give us a magical world that hovers in time between 1930 and 1960 and fills it with Art Deco scenery, hard-bitten reporters, greedy tycoons, innocent rubes, and your favorite Whammo fads.
Our fable begins with the whimsical suicide of Hudsucker Industries' CEO (the always entertaining Charles Durning) and the elevation of a naive mailboy with big dreams, Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), to his position. As scripted by the cigar-smoking corporate spinmeister, Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman), Hudsucker will be thrashed by the press for its brazen stupidity, the stock will dive, the board will buy up huge amounts of it, then Mussburger will steer the company back, making everyone rich. But Norville has a better idea.
So does star reporter, Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh doing her best Hepburn/Russell), who like her no-holds-barred sibling in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" wants to get the inside scoop on the new boy in town. Determined to get the best of the hick, she sidles up to him via her new "job" as his secretary, only to find his earnestness and honesty a glaring contrast to her own shriveled morality. Soon, unbeknownst to him, he wins her heart.
Soon, too, his new idea for a product sweeps the nation in a fad never before seen, jacking Hudsucker's stock far out of the picture for the now angry board. Determined to stop the record profits, Mussburger engineers a fall for Norville that will surely lead to him taking the permanent plunge, just as the company's namesake did.
But this is a true fable, so the supernatural element enters the picture in a delightfully satisfying way. The holiday theme near the end of the picture adds to the magic, making the picture a warm way to prepare for the season.
Some have accused "The Hudsucker Proxy" of being all gloss and no substance, a Frank Capra or Preston Sturges film that is easy on the eye yet lifeless, but I disagree strongly. The massive set design and powerful architecture in the film only serve to highlight the concept of mankind at odds with its own surroundings, good people out of place in a world that is too big for any of them. And that is the point of good fables, that what is real are the people and their courageous, honest, sincere lives, not the settings in which they act out their morality plays.
So forget the horrid title and buy "The Hudsucker Proxy". And for those that are fans of great production and set design, folks, this is how it is done. Fans of fables will not be left unsatisfied, either.
Rated "PG" for some adult themes (like suicide and other forms of personal destruction) and a tiny bit of talk, this film can be enjoyed by anyone from young teens up.
(This review covers the VHS version.)
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on January 8, 2001
The Movie:
It's boffo, fab, the real deal and a steal at that. Norville Barnes (Robbins) plays a rube sucker (?) new to business in the big city who finds a job in the basement mailroom of Hudsucker Industries, Inc just as Waring Hudsucker, founder & CEO takes a swan-dive from the 44th floor (not counting the mezannine). In need of a dupe-CEO to depress the stock so they can suck up the Hud's shares, Executive Sid Mussberger (Newman) and the board install the Rube as CEO. But he's got a plan. You know, for kids! Amy Archer (Leigh) is the hard-nosed investigative reporter lookin' for a scoop.
The movie itself rolls along really well. You have to stay on your toes to catch some of the best rapid-fire dialogue since The Big Sleep. Leigh, whom I usually despise, is excellent. All the stars really play the hell out of their roles. The Coens' writing and direction is top-drawer. All this and it's clean enough to watch with the kids!
The DVD:
There is really nothing but the movie here - no cast filmography, nocommentary, nada, except french dubbing if you want that. This is an older-style 2-sided DVD with standard on one side and widescreen on the other, which I find annoying. Despite other complaints I didn't see any profound problems with the transfer, but then again I'm just a film-lover, not a home theater freak. If you love this movie it's a good addition.
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on February 26, 2013
This zany film is immensely fun and rewatchable with a wonderful cast chewing the scenery for our entertainment. Highly recommended! (I just wish the Coens would get back to making more of these light and absurd films...)
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