Starring Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter
Scott’s Review #1,286
Reviewed August 5, 2022
Raising Arizona (1987) is the second film to be created by the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) with the independent offering, Blood Simple (1984) being the first.
The siblings would later become household names and trailblazers in the world of cinema.
It’s rough around the-edges storytelling with the severe desire to create something different. Maybe too different since sometimes Raising Arizona works and sometimes it doesn’t.
The film is to be championed mostly for its creativity though it’s not on par at all with the Coen brother’s best films, Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007). However, it does serve as a blueprint for films to come, if one is to look at it in hindsight.
I’m not the biggest Nicholas Cage fan of all time so it doesn’t help that he stars in Raising Arizona. The actor was achieving enormous recognition the same year for his appearance in Moonstruck (1987) which won Cher the Best Actress Oscar.
The film mostly gets props for its original writing and quirkiness in the sets and visual effects, but the comedy is way out in the left field and difficult to make sense of.
As with many Coen Brothers films, the plot centers on a crime and people on the run desperately trying to evade capture.
Hi McDunnough (Cage) is a convenience store robber who meets and falls in love with an ex-cop named Edwina “Ed” (Holly Hunter) during a stint in prison. After they move to a mobile home in the middle of the desert they decide to kidnap a baby since they cannot have one of their own.
While keeping their secret, friends, co-workers, and a bounty hunter look to use the child for their purposes.
The setting works quite well and is an important part of the film like other Coen offerings. The blazing hot desert is a familiar sight and pivotal to the story events with sizzling highways and roadside dives a focal point throughout. Hi and Ed’s tacky mobile home is dusty and cracked which enhances the extreme heat.
Cage and Hunter have tremendous chemistry which kept me invested in their characters. Both quirky looking, they act well against each other and invoke sympathy from the audience- at least I did. Despite being kidnappers, they have the best of intentions of keeping their stolen baby safe and cared for.
Delightful to see is actress Frances McDormand in an early role as Dot. She would become a frequent star and collaborator in later Coen Brothers films.
Forgetting the uneven storytelling for a minute, Raising Arizona’s finest moment comes at the very end. Through a series of prophetic dreams about the future, the fates of all the characters are determined.
It’s a trippy and magnificent sequence and quite well known to fans.
A clever offering that at times spins out of control with ridiculousness, Raising Arizona (1987) is nonetheless recommended to view and absorb the zany characters that the Coen Brothers are famous for creating.