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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> April 2000 >> The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Dates on Record:
April 2000, September 2001
IMDB Name:
Hudsucker Proxy, The (1994)
Joel Coen
comedy, romance
MPAA Rating:

Larger Than Life

The Coen Brothers have a knack for imbuing charm in one-dimensional characters that would be boring and trite in the hands of lesser filmmakers. The Hudsucker Proxy is an excellent example of this. They combine a tribute to decades-old movie techniques with characters lifted from the era. Tim Robbins plays the wide-eyed Indiana boy with terrific energy. His innocence is palpable every second he's on the screen. The banter in the newspaper offices between Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Mahoney, and Bruce Campbell is fantastic atmosphere, even when it's being used for plot exposition. Paul Newman sinks his teeth into the role of Sidney Mussburger, milking the part for all its obnoxious, arrogant, cigar-chomping glory.

With The Hudsucker Proxy, the Coens pay homage to the late 1950's with several classic film gimmicks, but they have new life here. There is a dreamy ballet sequence the likes of which I haven't seen since Singin' in the Rain. There is also delightful use of multiple exposures of newspapers and rubber stamps. These time tested indicators of time passage, action, and progress are presented just short of parody.

First Rate Second Unit

Some of the best moments in The Hudsucker Proxy were most likely done with the second unit. The attention to detail in the scenes without the cast primaries, even the ones that are only on screen for a few seconds, are terrific. The endless accounting office, the bizarre hula hoop machine, the giant and suddenly-colorful warehouse, and the wonderful pneumatic transport system are inspired images.

Extra, Extra!

Hudsucker Proxy is packed with marvelous extras. The small roles here are never filled with average- looking people. The exaggeration of their faces makes their presence something beyond the line or two they spout. They add terrific ambiance. Frequently seen in the Coens' movies, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and Jon Polito all put in cameos, although Goodman's is in voice only. The members of the Hudsucker board also spring to mind. Unfortunately, the credits do not distinguish between the characters, but all of them elevate the board room scenes.

Burwell Works Well

Carter Burwell has been working with the Coens for their entire career, and his work in Hudsucker is some of his best. He brings the right clichés in at the right times, right down to the inclusion of Aram Khachaturyan's overused Sabre Dance. I particularly enjoyed the sweeping strings under some of the more romantic moments, which are laced with just the right amount of cheese.

DVD Comments

The DVD for Hudsucker Proxy is rather stark. It offers audio and subtitles in English and French, but is otherwise completely devoid of content. On the bright side, the menus are largely simple. The biggest complaint is the selector, which is not immediately obvious on the main screen. The movie is split into thirty-seven chapters, so the hierarchical selector menu with ten to a screen is greatly appreciated. Long episode titles are used in lieu of images. One oddity in the scene menus, the first screen offers "Start Movie" and "End Credits" at the bottom, but none of the others do. The end credits happen to be the last chapter, so they're also available on that screen, but bundled with the last six chapters.

I did notice a few things about the image quality. Several scenes, most notably the opening, have falling snow. I don't know if it's a fluke of the encoding or an indicator of the quality of the special effect, but the snow falling at the beginning looks strange. I also noticed a film defect, probably present on every print and transfer, during the Stillson speech after Hudsucker's big exit.

See the IMDB information on The Hudsucker Proxy's DVD or compare prices at DVD Price Search.

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Copyright 2000-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.