The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
You know, for kids! – Norville Barnes
1994 was a landmark year in film. “Pulp Fiction” led the way followed by “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Forrest Gump” and “Clerks.” Buried among all these treasures is Joel and Ethan Coen’s “The Hudsucker Proxy.” It was panned by critics and never given a chance, doomed for box office failure. The Coens were disappointed, their first critical failure after releasing “Blood Simple”, “Raising Arizona”, “Miller’s Crossing”, and “Barton Fink.”
Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) is the right man at the right time. A clueless, naive grad fresh from business school, he comes to the big city looking for a job, landing mailroom clerk at Hudsucker Industries. Then company president Waring Hudsucker commits suicide, leaping through the top floor’s window, opening the door for scheming, member of the board, Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) to name the company’s successor. Mussburger wants to take controlling interest of the company’s stock, having it plummet drastically only to buy it back. His encounter with Norville confirms his pick for the new president, in hopes he leads the company to ruin, generating suspicion for news reporter Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
She deceives Norville into hiring her as his secretary, uncovering Mussburger’s plot. Her news story is publicly dismissed when Norville produces his stunning success the hula hoop, generating wild popularity for the company’s finances and Mussburger’s chagrin. Heralded as a golden boy, Norville’s success quickly goes to his head, unable to come up with a new idea, basking in complacency. Mussburger plots Norville’s downfall, exposing his ideas as lies and Amy as a fraud. Hopeless, Norville feels doomed, until given a second chance from an unexpected source.
It’s clear the Coen’s wanted to have fun with this film and make a point on corporate greed, a rampant issue currently on Wall Street. They depict the company board as incapable, old and tired, scared to provide direction, easily manipulated by the ruthless Mussburger. The film’s look is appealing, everything cast in a grey pallor of corporate steel, the outfits shiny and sharp, the dialogue fast and witty, the city life speeding ahead, contrasting sharply with Norville’s hick persona. There are several memorable scenes, the best being the hula hoop’s rise to fame, beginning with its ambitious production, fall from favor and inevitable explosion on American pop culture. This isn’t the Coen’s best film, but shouldn’t be ignored as their imagination and positive outlook for the underdog is captivating, a departure from their darker, recent films.
Filed under: Modern Film | 1 Comment
Tags: Ethan Coen, hula hoop, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joel Coen, Paul Newman, The Hudsucker Proxy, Tim Robbins