It is a truth universally acknowledged (or at least it should be) that the Coen brothers are the finest filmmakers on the planet.
Their most recent effort, Inside Llewyn Davis, was a melancholy reflection on artistic failure set in Greenwich Village circa 1961. The Hudsucker Proxy, released in 1994 and available to rent on LoveFilm, also takes place in New York, and just three years earlier. But this is where comparisons between the two films begin and end.
Hudsucker is a screwball comedy in the vein of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra. The set was seemingly pilfered from Fritz Lang while Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a fast-talking reporter modelled on Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. For the Coens and their lead, Tim Robbins, this is perhaps the closest thing there is to a lost classic.
Robbins plays Norville Barnes, a young innocent installed as the president of an enormous company in a bid to depress the value of the stock by an evil director (Paul Newman in arguably his last great role). Naturally, Norville has some ideas of his own, most notably a perfect circle drawn on a piece of scrap paper that he’s convinced could be the making of him. “You know, for kids.”
While the film is undoubtedly arch and more concerned with style than substance, it is crammed full of wonderful jokes and set pieces. Indeed, the flashback involving the tailor might be the most perfect gag in the entire Coen canon.
Somewhat aptly, this big budget broad comedy flopped at the box office while the brothers’ follow-up, Fargo, a peculiar comedic thriller made for a fraction of the cost, was a smash hit. It was an unlikely success worthy of Norville himself and further proof that the Coens’ could turn their hands to anything.