With its charming wit and stunning imagery, The Hudsucker Proxy may, at first blush, seem nothing more than a directorially glossy coat of the Coen brothers’ impish tales. But look closely and you’ll have your hallelujah corporate moments. Using the qualified but employed below his pay grade Norville Barnes—Tim Robbins in a slyly superb turn, not all dumb and not all smart, and open to all the viciousness power can inject into mere mortals—Joel and Ethan Coen, writing with Sam Raimi ( who the former of the brothers’ team met while assisting on the edit of the latter’s The Evil Dead), the movie runs a circle around the machinations that seem to drive businesses and capitalist enterprises. There’s company shares that are under evaluated and manipulated by the Hudsucker Industries board member Sidney J. Mussburger (a fabulously raspy and devilish Paul Newman) and vicious takeover games. On the other side of the nasty truth, Amy Archer—Jennifer Jason Leigh in top form—a sassy Pulitzer-winning reporter seeks the truth behind the suddenly appointed Hudsucker president—no spoiler this—Norville. She gets help from the all-knowing, all-seeing clock operator, the cleverly-named Moses (Bill Cobbs). (Is there any company that doesn’t have its share of part-of-its-every-historic-milestones Moses?)
Set in 1954, this 1994 movie’s contemporaneous bearings are all too clear to this day. Innovation—that sometimes kicks off at the bottom of the rung; here it’s Jim True-Frost’s mail boy who causes a buzz—may well be the hallmark of companies that tout them across corporate events, but far too many ruthless processes have been outed that point to the scalding furnace beneath the pot of gold. For the trivia seekers, there’s the fabulous Steve Buscemi and John Goodman to look out for; plus Raimi in his-back-to-the-camera cameo. Composer Carter Burwell scores a 50s grand orchestra delight, prancing around the goings on, while ace cinematographer Roger Deakins captures the NYC zeitgeist of that era with élan. But amidst the sharp dressing and even sharper Frank Capra-style comebacks, what stands out in terrifying relief is this— of all the cubicles inside the glass facade, the corner room’s is the loneliest and the scariest. Which’s why to this day, the easiest way out of that high-pressure room isn’t always the door.
The Hudsucker Proxy is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) for mild language and thematic elements
The Hudsucker Proxy
Directors Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Time 1h 51min
Writers Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi
Stars Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Genres Comedy, Drama, Fantasy