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. Written by
The foregoing was a fictional account of the development of the HULA HOOP® and the characters bear no resemblance to any real person or business concern. The HULA HOOP® was actually developed by the founders of the toy company WHAM-O®, a true American success story. WHAM-O® was subsequently responsible for the development of the FRISBEE® and numerous other toy products. See more »
The most stylish and innovative American filmmakers of the late 80's and 90's were the brother writer, director team of Joel and Ethan Coen. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and Barton Fink all displayed an energy and panache that had been missing from American film since the early seventies. The Hudsucker Proxy followed and it was the brothers most ambitious film to date.
Steeped in fifties nostalgia the film deals with corporate greed and the invention and success of the Hula Hoop. Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins looking very much like Dagwood Bumstead) is in search of a job in the big city. Optimistic and filled with idealism he gets in on the ground floor of a big company and rises quickly only to be used as a pawn by a scheming board chairman Sidney Mussburger (Mr. Dithers?). Instead he turns the tables and makes the company millions with his invention. Enter a female reporter who attempts to expose the company's duplicity but instead falls in love with Barnes while Chairman Mussburger plots revenge.
Proxy's first hour is filled with typical Coen imagery and fine tailored editing. A boardroom suicide is grand theatre and a montage of the Hula Hoop's accidental success is masterful. But once achieved Hudsucker becomes sluggish and uninteresting. Robbins' transition from the mail room flunky to board room tyrant is unconvincing while Paul Newman as Mussburger is too healthy looking an octenagerian whose passion in life is all consuming greed and power. Jennifer Jason Leigh is downright grating, lost somewhere between doing Hildy Johnson and her version of Dorothy Parker.
The film is Capraesque (shades of John Doe mixed with Wonderful Life) and that's a bad fit for the acerbic, dark comedies the Coen's excel at. Visually Hudsucker is a good looking film but like the Hula Hoop in 59, it fades fast.
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