The Hudsucker Proxy (1994): written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen with Sam Raimi; starring Tim Robbins (Norville Barnes), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Amy Archer), Paul Newman (Mussburger), Charles Durning (Hudsucker), and Bill Cobbs (Moses): The Hudsucker Proxy is like some lost Coen Brothers film, at least to the general public. But it’s swell! And Producer Joel Silver ponied up about $40 million for the Coen Brothers to make it. That was crazy. And much-appreciated. The sets! The actors! You know… for kids! Well, not exactly.
The Hudsucker Proxy has the DNA of many later, more celebrated Coen Brothers Joints swirling through its giddy, money-besotted bloodstream, perhaps most noticeably Hail, Caesar! and The Big Lebowski. Its protagonist, as played by Tim Robbins, is an amiable, gullible small-town kid who wants to sell his ingenious product to the world. Jennifer Jason Leigh does a remarkable sustained amalgam of Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn as cynical New York reporter Amy Archer. Paul Newman is evil incarnate, and Charles Durning has one of the most memorable scenes in the history of ghosts in cinema.
One can see the oddities of the production delighting the Coens throughout. While the film pays homage to the screwball comedies and dramedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s, it’s set in the late 1950’s. Why? I don’t know — everything about the production screams 1930’s Art Deco. Why is the supernatural in the movie? Who are the clockkeeper and the sign-painter? Why do Jennifer Jason Leigh’s scenes in her editor’s office play like homages to the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie?
For that matter, why does the reporter’s relationship with Tim Robbins’ character seem more like the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent than anything from the film’s screwball pedigree?
I don’t really know. It’s a great, weird film that was a financial disaster when it came out. So what? Salute Joel Silver for his crazy desire to see a big-budget Arthouse movie from the Coen Brothers. Salute! Highly recommended.