Sunday, 24 April 2011

Raising Arizona

Year: 1987
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (uncredited)
Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, William Forsythe, Sam McMurray, Frances McDormand, Randall "Tex" Cobb
Running Time: 94 minutes
Genre: Comedy, action,

Summary: H. I. "Hi" McDunnough (Cage) is a career criminal, with a penchant for robbing convenience stores, however he is so bad at it that he constantly gets caught. As time goes on he falls for the officer who processes him each time, Edwina "Ed" (Hunter), and they get married. Vowing to go straight, Hi embraces married life. However Ed is desperate to have a baby, but she is infertile and they are unable to adopt due to Hi's criminal past.
When they learn that local businessman Nathan Arizona (Wilson) has just become a father to quintuplets, Hi and Ed decide to steal one of the five babies to raise as their own.
They successfully kidnap one of the babies, but their new found family life is thrown into jeopardy when two of Hi's old friends from prison (Goodman and Forsythe) break out of jail and arrive at the McDunnough's home, as well as a deranged biker bounty hunter (Cobb) who is determined to find the missing baby.

Opinions: Child abduction is not exactly the most obvious theme for a light hearted knockabout comedy, especially one in which the abductors are actually the heroes, but the Coen brothers make it work.
The film is hyper-stylised and almost cartoonish, featuring sweeping camera movements, surreal moments and plenty of the Coens' trademark dialogue.
Nicolas Cage does some great work in the film. He is an actor who can be really good when he is in the right film and has a character that fits his over-the-top, manic style. He fits right in to the frenetic, bizarre world of this movie. However the film belongs to Holly Hunter who provides the film with it's heart. Genuinely well-meaning, if misguided, her character, which was written specifically for Hunter, anchors the whole movie.
The film is visually impressive, consistently entertaining, and very funny. The darker aspects of the premise are hinted at, but not really explored. Despite not being particularly successful when it was first released it has become something of a cult movie now.
The film gets a lot of comedy mileage out of the character's dialect (which was written as a blending of the local dialect and the character's assumed reading material - namely the Bible and magazines). As happens a lot with Coen brothers films, it's difficult to tell if they are celebrating or mocking the South, or maybe both at the same time.
The movie runs the risk at times of being too quirky for it's own good, but it gets by on sheer energy and the fact that it is always enjoyable and frequently genuinely charming. This was the Coens' second film and was written deliberately to be the polar opposite of their debut, the hard-edged, stripped down noir thriller Blood Simple (1984), and fans will be able to spot many of their tradmarks.
Over the top, exuberant fun, but with genuine heart, this is worth checking out.

Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona

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