The Hudsucker Proxy (Joel Coen, 1994)

I tuned into this about 5 minutes after it started, to see an old fat man looking quite content as he plummets to his death with sarcastically dramatic music, followed by Paul Newman and a bunch of old fogeys in a stylishly bland board room going on with business as if nothing had happened.  As soon as I saw this, I thought to myself, “this is a Coen Brothers movie.”  Why’d I think this?  How could I identify a Coen brothers movie based on one scene?  I have no idea…I guess I just have that Coen brothers style committed to sense memory by now so that I can just recognize it.  And for about the first half-hour or so, with the gorgeous sets and style, the chaotic mail room and the uber-fantasy 1950s look, I was so excited about this movie’s potential.  I thought it was gonna be the next Brazil.  But then, the rest of the movie had the same problem that I thought plagued parts of The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou: a complete over-reliance on that style: a style I’d call…cynical? sarcastic? overly-clever in its humor?  Again, I have no idea how to describe it, but it was here…and there…and everywhere (I mentally tuned out when time stopped and the angel showed up with the shitty-looking halo).  It was so obvious that this was a parable on the flaws and lack of humanity that comes with big business, but that’s all it was: a parable.  Every sight and sound and character was a symbol, to the point that (here’s a hell of a cliché…) style easily drowned out substance, and it was like a cartoon.  Nobody to latch on to.  Where’s the subtlety?  Not here…but at least the Brothers Coen followed this up two years later with what I’m considering more and more…and more…to be one of my five favorite movies of all time.  Hell of a turnaround  😀

6.5/10

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