The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
December 21, 2017 9:14 PM - Subscribe

After Hudsucker Industries President Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning) commits suicide, the senior executives -led by the seniorest of them, Sidney Mussburger (Paul Newman)- install naïve business school graduate Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) as President in a play to drive the stock price down. Meanwhile, fast-talking reporter archetype Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tries to figure out what’s going on.
posted by Going To Maine (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just figured we should have a post here about the greatest movie of all time.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:15 PM on December 21, 2017 [15 favorites]


I first got exposed to this movie in a college film course that included the entire opening sequence as a clip pertaining to cinematography—from the Muncie bus arriving to Hudsucker hitting the pavement.

Now, twenty years later, I teach a college film course and include the same clip for the same purpose.

I thought this bit on Wikipedia was pretty interesting:
The first image the Coens and Raimi conceived was of Norville Barnes about to jump from the window of a skyscraper and then they had to figure out how he got there and how to save him. The inclusion of the hula hoop came as a result of a plot device. Joel remembers, "We had to come up with something that Norville was going to invent that on the face of it was ridiculous. Something that would seem, by any sort of rational measure, to be doomed to failure, but something that on the other hand the audience already knew was going to be a phenomenal success." Ethan said, "The whole circle motif was built into the design of the movie, and that just made it seem more appropriate." Joel: "What grew out of that was the design element which drives the movie. The tension between vertical lines and circles; you have these tall buildings, then these circles everywhere which are echoed in the plot...in the structure of the movie itself. It starts with the end and circles back to the beginning, with a big flashback."

Thumbs up:
- Norville's entire orientation sequence;
- Buzz, who makes the elevator do what she does;
- Paul Newman as a corny villain;
- the genuinely awesome set design;
- the just plain fun camerawork (no surprise Sam Raimi was involved);
- the imposing score;
- Vic Tenetta!!! *gaaasp*

Thumbs down:
- underuse of Bruce Campbell;
- the literally forced ending;
- the emptiness. Critics have said of Hudsucker that it's lots of style and precious little substance, and it's hard to disagree.

So while it's certainly not the Coens' best film, it may be my favorite. Maybe a close tie with Lebowski, I dunno.

Great movie for the holidays too. Thanks for the post!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:51 AM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


The eight-minute sequence documenting the journey of the "whatsis" from proposal to production to near failure to (spoiler!) runaway success, shot by second unit director Sam Raimi, could be considered in itself one of the greatest short films in history. Watching it will save you the trouble of spending two years and $260,000 on an MBA.
posted by How the runs scored at 5:52 AM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


This is a beautiful movie that makes me feel good.
posted by doctornecessiter at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think Tim Robbins's performance really saves this. Reading the original script, Norbert comes across as much less likable, and I think if Robbins wasn't so goofy then it would make the whole enterprise a lot harder to care about -- and my impression is that he didn't get a lot of direction about what to do with the character, either, which is interesting if true.

I love the balcony scene that begins where Norbert says "Well, the Hindus say, and the beatniks also ...". And the diner scene narrated by a couple of regulars is great: "He don't _look_ wise."
posted by jwgh at 6:44 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


"You and I should catch a show after work sometime, I'm thinking maybe The King And I."
[SLAP]
"What about Oklahoma?"
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Ah, a Muncie girl!"

As someone who went to Ball State University, I adore this movie.

We still quote that at least weekly. Also, "You know, for kids!"
posted by cooker girl at 8:13 AM on December 22, 2017


I was a high school theater kid when this came out and was huge with my group of misfits. It really feels like Guys and Dolls or How to Succeed both of which we had just done in school. I had a huge crush on Jennifer Jason Leigh in this. She - and the rest of the cast - are just exactly the right amount over the top for the style of this movie.

So while it's certainly not the Coens' best film


I don't know about that. I've seen and liked them all except Lebowski and I consider this the best for me. It's not a deep movie that'll change the world, but it does what it's trying to do incredibly well.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:01 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Go Eagles!

My sister and I were in 9th and 7th grade respectively when this movie came out. We didn't see it until VHS release, but it was formative to say the least. I still haven't gotten my husband to see it, but it's on Prime so maybe I'll make him watch it this holiday weekend. I'll have to report back and see if we're still married afterward.
posted by Knicke at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2017


Am I correct in remembering that Jennifer Jason Leigh actually had never seen Norville's Muncie Eagles dance and fight song before they filmed that scene, and that she's legitimately struggling to follow along with Tim Robbins as if she knows it?

Fight on, fight on
Dear old Muncie
Fight on, hoist the gold and blue
You'll be tattered, torn and hurtin'
Once the Munce is done with
...
...
eeYOUuuuu
OOOUUUuu
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


"What if you get tired before it's done" has haunted me my whole life

It's not a deep movie that'll change the world


disagree; see above. they don't make questions profounder than that.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:17 AM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


This isn’t so much a movie to me as something I want to crawl into and live inside.

I thought this movie was in B&W for YEARS cause I had a black and white TV, I still sometimes turn the color off for it.

That balcony scene and kiss is basically Everything I Want In A Movie distilled into alcohol
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on December 22, 2017


I was going to say something about this, but if you fill out the comment form wrong...


...THEY DOCK YA!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:24 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


It's weird to think that Paul Newman was in this movie, as he seems pretty forgettable in it. Sure, sure, he played an important role, but I can't think of any other Paul Newman movie that he wasn't the focus or at least co-star.
posted by skewed at 3:28 PM on December 22, 2017


Pants.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:51 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh man, the typewriter scene.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is doing SO MUCH in that scene; not just the rapid-fire line delivery, but the gesture work is amazing, doing business as punctuation for it all, especially the drawer/Pulitzer/typewriter triple-slap on "well, come on down here hammerhead, and I'll show it to ya!"
Not to mention "and that's just potatoes Smitty, here comes the gravy".
posted by bartleby at 5:32 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]


I remember thinking this was a truly great movie until it fell apart about halfway through. Like, one of the best movies I'd ever seen, until it suddenly went bad. I'll have to check it out again sometime for a re-appraisal, but it left a very strong impression. Greatness, followed by a weird, tedious badness that seemed kind of deliberate, like they wanted to annoy you out of the theater.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:48 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Jennifer Jason Leigh's Mid-Atlantic accent is my favorite part of this wonderful movie (and the incredible production design). Coen Brothers at their best.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:43 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Hudsucker Proxy is my version
of a Capra Christmas
so much that I'm adding it to the Holiday Movie Club.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:02 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


Re: Muncie Eagles...While not a Muncie city school, there actually is a Muncie area school whose mascot is the Eagle, and their colors are blue and gold. Go Delta! (My kids went there)
posted by Thorzdad at 2:42 PM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I want to say the reason I love it so is because it's got such a morbid intro, yet has the most unequivocally optimistic ending. As much as the Coens do satire well, the fact is, a lot of their stuff leaves me feeling darkly cynical inside afterwards, even Lebowski.

This does not. And that's despite it being modeled after a true story!
The death of Waring Hudsucker was inspired by a real-life incident. On February 3, 1975, Eli Black, the CEO of the United Fruit Company, smashed an office window with his briefcase and jumped to his death from the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York City.
Also this bit of trivia, courtesy of IMDB: It's the only Coen brothers film that's rated PG.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:21 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's the only Coen brothers film that's rated PG.

You know, for kids!
posted by LionIndex at 6:41 PM on December 23, 2017 [19 favorites]


CheesesofBrazil: "underuse of Bruce Campbell"

Strong personal disagreement here. He's one of those people that takes me right out of a movie. Fortunately in the typewriter scene he's all but invisible as Jennifer Jason Leigh dominates every facet of their interaction.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned here yet is Carter Burwell's soundtrack. I have no idea how the man heard Aram Khachaturian's 'Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia' and decided it would serve as the theme for this movie and yet it does, and so perfectly. If I sit and listen to that music with headphones on it gives me goosebumps and while that's like ... 90% Khachaturian's fault it wouldn't be exactly the same without Carter Burwell's choice to include it as the foundation to this tale. I would argue that it is as crucial to the identity of this film as Den bortkomne sauen (The Lost Sheep) is to Fargo.

I also really like the use of 'Sabre Dance' from Gayane (again, composed by Aram Khachaturian) during the hula hoop scene. Who would have thought that 1940s Soviet folk ballet music from an Armenian composer would perfectly support a movie set in late 1950s New York City, and in such wildly different scenes? I mean other than Carter Burwell, obviously.
posted by komara at 11:29 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


My parents are visiting for the holidays, and we struggle to find movies that will entertain everyone. They love Oh Brother, and Fargo, but aren't the type to like Lebowski, so i asked if they had never seen Hudsucker.
They absolutely loved it, from the opening scene with the bus arriving to the It's a Wonderful Life -esque angel, the hula hoop and frisbee and JJL reminded them of young Kate Hepburn. The design and lighting, of course, were every movie from their younger days (they are depression era).
And now my mom knows why, when I show her something that she can't identify, I say "you know, for the kids" before i tell her what it really is. Love this movie.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:57 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


I should have known I'd find like-minded fans on Metafilter. Probably the most underrated Coen bros film out there. So much good stuff *not counting the mezzanine.*

"Hiya buddy, the name's Buzz, I got the fuzz, I make the elevator do what she does!"

Amy's con job narrated by the cabbies!

The Muncie fight song!

The hula hoop montage with the marketing guy silhouettes and slowmo hula hoop kid.

Okay - I'm off to watch this again...
posted by Start with Dessert at 2:11 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Rewatching this on New Years Eve, I remembered that I stole one of Sidney J. Mussburger's lines for a scene about bullying my church youth group put together and performed in a service...I was portraying one of the bullies, and we were gathered together talking about our target; one of the others mentioned how meek the guy was, and I said, "Sure sure, he's a jerk that we can really push around."
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:38 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The hula hoop montage with the marketing guy silhouettes and slowmo hula hoop kid.

Fun fact: One of the silhouetted marketing guys is Sam Raimi (the other is John Cameron, one of the producers).
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:40 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


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