Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Hudsucker Proxy - Best Female Performance Ever?
Tarantino is definitely my favorite film director. However, a close second is not a single person, but a team of two: The Coen Brothers. Loving each and every one I've seen, I still haven't watched all their films, but I've seen the big ones like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and The Big Lebowski. They are dark comedies that follow the demise of a person and how they either climb out of a mess or fall even deeper. The Coen's characterize their cast so that they are unique and unforgettable. On my journey through their filmography, I was not disappointed with their 1994 screw-ball comedy, The Hudsucker Proxy.
The Hudsucker Proxy takes place in the 1950's when American business was flourishing. Norville Barnes (played by Tim Robbins) is a good-hearted man from the small-town of Muncie, Indiana. After graduating from the town's business school, he decides to take his big ideas and work his way up the food-chain at Hudsucker Industries, even if he has to start at the very bottom as a mail clerk. Unexpectedly, the president of the company commits suicide without willing his company's shares to anyone. Since the shares will go public at the beginning of the year, in order to make the stocks cheap so that the executive board can buy them all up, they decide to make the company's reputation bad by hiring a "dim-witted" new president. The evil chairman Sidney J. Mussburger (played by Paul Newman), hires Barnes for the role because of his silly invention: The Hula Hoop. However, the plan backfires on Mussburger as the profits skyrocket and every person in America has to have a hula hoop. As Barnes becomes famous, investigative newspaper reporter Amy Archer (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) infiltrates Hudsucker Industries as a secretary to get the inside scoop on the new president. However, discovering he may not be an imbecile, she falls in love with him and questions the bad press she has been spreading.
With the building pressure of wealth, a malicious adviser, bad press, and a questionable relationship, can Maxwell Barnes survive the harsh corporate world?
This film has a lot of things going on, especially with the characters: Conflicts, relationships, danger, and even some magic. As I said before, the Coen brothers know how characterize a human being so they are memorable to the audience. In this film, the Coens even personify the entity known as the Corporate World. It is a well structured machine that has a life of its own. The Coens beautifully display this through story, acting, scenery, music, and cinematography.
Whether the camera is shooting over the skylines of the cityscape or inside a small office, the sets look huge to symbolize the grandness of the corporate world. Accompanying the cinematography is a mechanical and busy musical score. It sounds like the innovative wheels are turning, similar to the music of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
The performances in this movie are nothing but pure awesomeness. Tim Robbins plays a very quirky, but likable character. Paul Newman plays the bad guy you love to hate. Even Bruce Campbell makes a fun appearance as a newspaper reporter (probably because of Sam Raimi's involvement as co-scripter). However the performance that shines above the rest is Jennifer Jason Leigh's.
She is a spitfire who is not scared to stand her ground. She is beautiful and has the demeanor to get information she wants. Similar to Lois Lane, her curiosity often gets her in trouble, but she has no trouble fending for herself. If someone attempts to interrupt her when she is speaking, she will slap them in the face and continue to speak as if they did not exist.
She does have a soft-side however. She eventually sympathizes for poor Norville and even falls in love with him (but she would not dare share this with him until he is absolutely at his lowest point). Based on Leigh's performance alone, this movie is worth watching. Her role as Amy Archer may be my favorite female performance ever (hopefully Uma Thurman isn't reading this). I'm not familiar with any of Leigh's other work, but I'll be sure to check them out.
Overall, this is a fun movie that is often forgotten whenever the Coen Brothers are mentioned. It may not have cold-blooded murder, but it still has those uncomfortable scenes that make you laugh and come back.
So on Death List Five, The Hudsucker Proxy ranks #4.