The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy. Poly Gram Film Entertainment 1994.

Before watching the movie:

The plot reminds me vaguely of Trading Places, without the “trading places” part. A guy lands in the CEO position of a major company because somebody above him is plotting nefariously. It’s a comedy! Tim Robbins and Paul Newman are in it! It’s made by the Coen Brothers! It’s a comedy!

I’m hoping for Wall Street meets The Secret of My Success.

After watching the movie:

Fresh out of the Muncie School of Business class of 1958, Norville Barnes heads to New York to make a name for himself, and ultimately finds himself in the mailroom of Hudsucker Industries on the day that company president Waring Hudsucker decides to take a flying leap out the window 40-odd stories up. Without heirs, his supermajority of company stock will be placed on open market on January 1st, just a few weeks away, and Chairman Sidney Mussberger has a scheme to make the stock worthless enough for the board himself to buy up control: find the most worthless employee (Barnes) and make him the new President. Two problems: a female ace reporter has planted herself in Norville’s office, and his circular dingus idea… you know, for the kids (a hula hoop) is just crazy enough to catch on.

When I said Wall Street meets The Secret of My Success… I didn’t expect to be so on the money. At the same time, it’s entirely different, since it’s grounded in a world familar enough to be recognizable, yet whimsically exaggerated, like a bleaker How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying or a brighter Brazil. It’s different enough that when the finale takes a left turn out of nowhere, it’s a surprising stretch, but not unbelievable.

There’s no mistaking the Coen style. They don’t do anything small. This is a medium-sized story with all the stops pulled out. From the opening sequence, a fly through a snowy New York gothic skyline, one can tell that this is going to be writ large. And yet, the performances aren’t extravagant. They may be a little caricatured, but they’re people, not hams.

Most of the work is in beautiful gothic/art deco setpieces, and in the thoughtful cinematography. They compliment a tightly-knit screenplay that I can’t so much describe as just promote. The writing even elevates Family Guy-esque cutaway gags to an art. If I had to criticize it for one thing, it’s that the drama isn’t so much dramatic as melodramatic, but it passes for drama in the world that’s been created.

 

Watch this movie: For great writing with fun gags in a visually pleasing package.

Don’t watch this movie: if you prefer the ideas of an ignoramus.

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