Matchup of the Day: Hud vs. Finding Nemo
Ellen DeGeneres and Paul Newman share a birthday today. Hud and Finding Nemo are both about father and son relationships, so that seemed like a fitting matchup.
Ellen DeGeneres has said that Finding Nemo came at a time when her career was in a slump. Director Andrew Stanton wrote the role of the scatterbrained Dory with her in mind after hearing DeGeneres on TV rambling from topic to topic. She went on to win a number of awards for her voice work on Dory, who is now considered one of the most beloved Pixar characters. Similarly, Patricia Neal won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alma in Hud, which is among her best-remembered performances. It could be said that Dory and Alma are the heart their respective films. Dory encourages Marlin to not give up in his search for Nemo. Alma brings out what little warmth there is in Newman’s cynical character Hud.
In Finding Nemo, Marlin, a clown fish, is overprotective of his only child, Nemo. Having lost the rest of his family to a barracuda attack, Marlin is particularly obsessive about guarding Nemo against every possible danger. That Nemo has a malformed fin only adds to Marlin’s anxiety. With Paul Newman’s character Hud, the relationship between him and his father is quite the opposite. Hud is confident and capable, but his father views him as morally lacking. He believes that Hud’s positive qualities only serve to distract others from his weak principles. They tolerate each other at best.
The conflict in the films arises when the two characters rebel against their father’s wishes. Nemo feels stifled by Marlin’s smothering behavior and deliberately swims close to a boat when his father tells him not to. This leads to Nemo being captured and put into an aquarium at a dentist’s office. Marlin spends the rest of the film trying to find him. In Hud, Newman believes that his father’s refusal to cut corners and trusting nature is holding them back from making more money off the family cattle ranch. When his father buys some cows infected with foot-and-mouth disease, which endangers the other livestock, Hud decides to seek control of the ranch by whatever means necessary.
Marlin meets Dory, a blue tang fish, on his quest to rescue Nemo. Dory is highly forgetful, but also lively and good-natured. Marlin is annoyed by her at first until she shows him how to loosen up and appreciate life. When he sees that she functions despite her forgetfulness he realizes that Nemo, too, should be allowed to spread his wings (or fins). The earthy housekeeper Alma in Hud is probably the only person in the film the title character has any respect for. Hud is a womanizer who constantly makes advances toward Alma, which she turns down repeatedly. Unlike the blossoming Marlin experiences with Dory, however, Hud’s relationship with Alma eventually shows that he is not going to change his ways. Toward the end of the film, he brutishly tries to force himself on her. Even though he later apologizes, things can never be the same.
By the conclusion of Finding Nemo, Marlin’s relationship with his son has improved and he has grown as an individual. Hud doesn’t change at all. At the end all his relationships have soured, but he does, at least, end up with the ranch. From what I’ve read, Hud was considered a charming anti-hero by audiences when the film was released, though that wasn’t the intent of the filmmakers. Maybe it’s because Hud exemplifies Dory’s “just keep swimming” philosophy. Even if he does it out of callous self-interest.