OK, before we get into the meat of this review, everybody take a deep breath, close your eyes and chant with me: Tim Robbins is God. Tim Robbins is God. Tim Robbins is God.

In the glowing aftermath of this orgasmic revelation, let me tell you a bit about one my all time favourite movies.

Joel & Ethan Coen spin a characteristically convoluted yarn of crooked tycoons, devious journalists and affable but wily millionaires who come back from the dead to give avuncular inflight advice to suicidal ingenues. So far so simple. Add some blisteringly witty dialogue, sparkling acting and some of the finest, most humane character direction this side of Shakespeare, and you've got one of the best goddamn flics ever made. In the humble opinion of this modest critic, that is.

OK. One Waring Hudsucker makes a nosedive out of the top window of his ever so imposing Art Nouveau Manhattan office building. This is financially very bad. The power behind the throne evil advisor type Sidney J. Mussburger (left to clean up the metaphorical pavement pizza) decides to recoup his losses by making sure that the Hudsucker Industries goes even lower, in fact as low as it can go, enabling him and his complicit board of directors to buy up all the shares cheap and make lots of lovely money. Best way to do this is promote a certain Norville Barnes, mailroom nincompoop and clutz par excellance. Hoping that Norville will be a disaster and share prices will plummet.

But lo! Norville invents the hoola hoop. Which is a massive hit. The company is making money, shares are high and ole Sidney is left no choice but to parade his protegé around town and smile nicely through his cigar smoke. The naive Norville is overjoyed, believing all the while that he had saved the company's bacon. Enter Amy Archer, a hard bitten if diminutive newspaper reporter who is determined to infiltrate the organisation and find out what this guy Norville is all about, not to mention what Mussburger is up to!

And that's as much as I'm saying. The movie owes a monumental debt to the seminal His Girl Friday of 1940 (still the fastest talking movie ever made, by the way), but equally as much to Frank Capra's witty, politically astute comedies of the same era. Visually, the production is crisp, boldly coloured and angular to a degree that creates a surreal effect almost of a fifties comic book. The performances are, without a single exception, outstanding. Jennifer Jason Leigh has never looked or sounded more convincing - quite a feat in such a flamboyantly caricaturistic role - and Paul Newman plays the baddie with, as I once heard a preformance by Gene Hackman described, "obvious pleasure". The script, the direction, the editing and the camera and ligting work are all spectacular, vicious and yet at the same time compassionate. By far and away the most exciting movie the Coen brothers have made to date, no matter what all those Big Lebowski fanatics say.

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen with Sam Raimi. Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (uncredited). Produced by Ethan Coen and Graham Place (II).

Partial cast list:

Tim Robbins - Norville Barnes
Jennifer Jason Leigh - Amy Archer
Paul Newman - Sidney J. Mussburger
Charles Durning - Waring Hudsucker
John Mahoney - Chief
Jim True - Buzz
Bill Cobbs - Moses
Bruce Campbell - Smitty
Harry Bugin - Aloysius
John Seitz - Benny
Joe Grifasi - Lou

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