For those of us of simple sensibilities, this is a very silly, very noisy movie.
"The Hudsucker Proxy" is a movie for anyone who loves playing mind games with trendy filmmakers. People who define themselves by standing apart from the crowd have fastened on the quirky work of the brothers Coen, Ethan and Joel, who in turn hand them perfect material for their cerebral feeding frenzy. The Coens made, among opaque others, "Barton Fink," a movie that allowed intellectuals to marinate in the isms - existential, deconstruction and nihil. These are people who are miserable in consensus.
Perceived as the cultural cutting edge, the Coens have become a magnet for adventurous actors. The very brave Tim Robbins and the very secure Paul Newman rise to the appeal of being part of a counterculture thrust, a kind of thinking man's in-joke, but what they are giving the audience is an empty fable. "Hudsucker" is a pseudo-sophisticated rip at the American corporate giant. It's a movie of stereotypes: the low level manager who specializes in verbal brutality, the mogul who has it all and finds the 35th floor plate glass window the only route to somewhere else, the bumbler (Tim Robbins) from the Midwest who is chosen with evil intent by the dark tycoon (Paul Newman). The message is delivered by turning stereotypes into caricature, by soaking the dialogue in deliberate cliche, and wrapping it all in the dark colors and moods that mock the power of the modern megacorporation.
We do have a hero. The benevolent bumbler is clearly Jimmy Stewart in all his roles, though he seems here more like Gerry Ford. Chosen as CEO to replace Mr. Hudsucker who lies splattered on the sidewalk below, Norville Barnes (Robbins) will be perceived by the financial world as an imbecile and the stock will plunge in perfect accommodation of the plans of the manipulators. But Novillle invents the Hula Hoop. That's it, folks: daggers at the heart of the financial world's parasites, darts at the idiots who comprise the gullible consumer public.
The Coen's intent is as unclear here as it was in "Barton Fink," a film that also wallowed in the phantoms of the surreal. But that's the problem. If nothing is real, if nothing means anything, what's the Coen's point? Nothing, it seems. For those of us of simple sensibilities, this is a very silly, very noisy movie. Corporate board members behaving like school children is a staple of satire; business perks and swelled heads are universal jokes. The Coens have made all of it deadly boring.
Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh, reaching desperately for Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn, do evoke something of the '30s, but everyone back then did it better and with a light touch altogether missing in "Hudsucker." Robbins, Leigh and the glorious Paul Newman are beached in an epic takeoff that sinks under its own weight. Their personal adventure is our wasted evening.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 482
Studio: Warner Bros.
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