For Reel

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
February 22, 2016, 1:08 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Joel & Ethan Coen
2.5 Stars
The Hudsucker ProxyThe Coen brothers’ fifth movie was among their most maligned and became a certified flop, a small setback sandwiched between two masterpieces: Barton Fink, which brought them to new levels of critical appreciation, and Fargo, still among their most successful mainstream endeavors. As time has gone by, The Hudsucker Proxy has developed a cult following in certain circles, undoubtedly due to its extraordinary visual ambition and as a messy homage to classic Hollywood. Unfortunately, time has not resolved all of the picture’s problems, starting with the insistence on filmic references from the 30s and 40s in a film set in the late 50s, which both reads as self-serving and indulges a needlessly convoluted sense of the period. Moreover, the Coen brothers are simply too ironic in their sensibilities to make a Frank Capra picture. While the final act descends into very old-fashioned sentimentality, it has to battle the film’s approach to satire, which is distinguished very much by its outlandishness and sense of mockery. Worst of all is that Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh are both terribly cast and give genuinely bad performances–Robbins has none of the “common man” appeal of even a Gary Cooper or Jimmy Stewart, and Leigh’s Mid-Atlantic accent is a handicap she never overcomes. Regardless, something should be said for the sheer scale and ambition. This is still the “biggest” Coen brothers film to date, and had their storytelling been refined enough to meet the stunning production design, the film would have taken on a very different legacy.

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