THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, 1994
Cast: Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, John Mahoney, Bruce Campbell, Bill Cobbs, Jim True-Frost
When Waring Hudsucker, head of hugely successful Hudsucker Industries, commits suicide, his board of directors, led by Sidney Mussberger, comes up with a brilliant plan to make a lot of money: appoint a moron to run the company. When the stock falls low enough, Sidney and friends can buy it up for pennies on the dollar, take over the company, and restore its fortunes. They choose idealistic Norville Barnes, who just started in the mail room. Norville is whacky enough to drive any company to ruin, but soon, tough reporter Amy Archer smells a rat and begins an undercover investigation of Hudsucker Industries.
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An ambitious yet naÔve hillbilly Norville Barnes (Robbins) comes to the big city looking to make a name for himself. He gets a job in mailroom of a corporate business known as Hudsucker Industries; however when the CEO commits suicide the company finds itself in a difficult position. Board of Directors Sidney J. Mussberger (Newman) decides to take advantage of the situation by installing an idiot in his place, then taking advantage of lowered stock price.
The idiot is Barnes who sees this as an opportunity to put forth his great ideas. Meanwhile, Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) the fast-talking, crackerjack columnist deceives her way into Barnesís life in hopes of landing the big scoop about what exactly is going on in the company. She suspects the real reason why Barnes is the new CEO, but while she tries to get the exclusive, Amy falls in love with Barnes.
When Barnes' tenure proves a surprise success with the invention of the Hula Hoop, Mussberger is determined to get rid of him anyway he can. Newman is excellent in his over the top villainous role. He like all the other characters are actually caricatures of the old Hollywood big business.
Jennifer Jason Leighís character is similar to Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday. In the film she played a fast talking assertive reporter and love interest to Cary Grant. Her role was probably the most memorable performance of Rosalindís career, and Jennifer does a solid homage to the great actress.
If this film was created back in the 40ís, which is the era the movie seems to molded itself after based on the lavish set design, the actors would include several of the greats. James Stewart would play Barnes, Rosalind as Amy, and Edward G. Robinson would play Sidney. The look and feel of the picture is reminiscent of the classic Hollywood era.
The set design is truly captivating and adds a lot to the look of the film. The production is broad like the actors performances and while may see that as a flaw, I view it more like an admirable and bold quality. It adds to the clever and witty nature of the picture as well which the Coenís perfectly capture from script to film.
The editing as well is also great. Thereís a sterling montage sequence involving the creation and selling of the Hula Hoop. We watch as the toy roles down the sidewalk into the streets and then stopping off in front of a kid who immediately takes to the product. As the kids get out of school they stop, in awe, in front of the kid now twirling his body with the hoop around his waist.
They scream in delight at the sight and rush off to buy their own, leading to the unexpected success of the Hula Hoop. Underneath the montage is an excellent classical tune that really works perfectly with the scene. The Hudsucker Proxy is clever, fun, exciting, and entertaining. It seems that out of all the Coen Brothers films this one is the most underrated and overlooked in their treasure chest of great films. While not the greatest of their collection, itís certainly one that deserves a look.