Wednesday, 30 March 2011
DVD: 10 DAYS OF JOEL & ETHAN COHEN: DAY 4 -THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)
This is the third of the four films I've reviewed so far that I saw not long after it was initially released, the others being Blood Simple and Barton Fink, and it was the one that I remembered the least about.
There's a reason for that: it's not very good.
In theory, it should have been. The Coens had been professional film makers for over a decade. It has all their usual hallmarks of interesting camerawork and angles, eccentric memorable characters, good actors, etc. I mean, how can you beat Paul Newman in a rare comedic role or the talented Tim Robbins playing an enthusiastic innocent in the big city, or Jennifer Jason Leigh playing a reporter who isn't as hard-nosed as she thinks? Difficult, but the Coens managed it.
Shortly after the boss of a massively successful company takes a dive through a skyscraper window, the board of directors learn that he has arranged for his stock to be sold on the open market which means, because they are so successful, the price is so high they can't afford to begin to buy a majority shareholding. So the only way they can win is to drive down the price of the shares. They do this by appointing the recently employed mail room boy Tim Robbins as new boss who they believe they can manipulate. At first this seems to work and they allow him to go with this all-ages invention of his believing it will fail miserably. Unfortunately for them, it's the hula hoop and share prices go even higher.
At the same time, he is being investigated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Jason Leigh (using an irritating voice reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn) who gets a job as his secretary and slowly but surely she falls for him. Scenes on her newspaper include John Mahoney (see Barton Fink, and Frazier) as the editor and Bruce Campbell in the thankless role of a cynical colleague (a role which would be virtually invisible if played by anyone else). It turns to fantasy towards the end when Robbins throws himself off the skyscraper only to be saved by a literal deus ex machina as the film turns into a blatant fantasy and concludes with a happy end.
And the reason it isn't a very good film is because it's a comedy which just isn't very funny. And the reason it isn't very funny is down to the script. Considering the scriptwriter is notoriously the low man on the Hollywood totem pole, this is ironic. A good script can't save a bad movie, but a bad script will certainly doom one no matter how good it is in every other department. And if you've read the other entries in this little mini-series, you'll already be aware that the writers are none other than the Coen brothers themselves.
Plus Sam Raimi.
As Crimewave also proved, while they may all be good buddies, their respective talents just don't work together. The Hudsucker Proxy has its moments here and there but overall it doesn't add up to much.
In blink and you'll miss them parts are: Anna Nicole Smith as Za-Za a floozy, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and Sam Raimi.
Clint Eastwood was first offered Paul Newman's role but couldn't take it because of scheduling problems.
Including marketing the film cost $40 million but didn't even make $3 million in the domestic market.
(Thank you, Wikipaedia, for the above.)