A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 153 – Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona – July 31st, 2010

Tonight we decided to go with an old favorite that’s not an old favorite for our guest. She’d never seen it all the way through. Now me, I saw this for the first time when I was pretty young. Under 12, I’d say. I know I was young, because I was still spending Friday afternoons with my grandparents. This is important because that stopped when I hit middle school, and I distinctly remember trying to explain this movie to my grandfather. I was unsuccessful in my attempt.

Because really, this is a weird little movie. It is, as my friend pointed out near the end, a heist movie. But it’s a Coen brothers heist movie starring Nic Cage, and the loot is a baby, and the setting is rural Arizona, and the soundtrack is banjo and yodeling. That makes is pretty much a unique piece of filmmaking. I’ll say this about the soundtrack, even not having seen it in years, I still hummed it from memory when we decided on it for tonight.

As this is a Coen brothers movie, one can expect a certain amount of bizarre humor. It’s partially in the situation, which is that H.I. McDunnough, convenience store thief and repeat offender, and his wife, former police officer Edwina, kidnap a baby after finding out they can’t have one of their own. They settle on one of the Arizona Quints, as there are five of them! Who’ll notice! Of course then things get complicated, with a couple of H.I.’s old buddies from jail showing up and swiping the baby, and a bounty hunter tracking them all down to get the baby and extort money from the family for its safe return.

But it’s also in the performances and delivery. Nicolas Cage (and his hair) do an amazing job as H.I., with some deadpan deliveries of outrageous lines. Holly Hunter, as his wife, plays a character who is consumed by need for a baby to the point that she is willing to do something so very against her nature. Her desperation and determination are played both for sympathy and for laughs, which is a hard line to balance on but she manages. H.I.’s buddies, the Snotes brothers, are played by William Forsyth and Coen brothers regular John Goodman. Both of them play their roles to the hilt, hamming it up and screaming whenever needed. And Randall “Tex” Cobb as the bounty hunter is one of the foulest and most demonic characters I’ve ever seen. And that’s not mentioning the bit parts, like Frances McDormand as a friend of H.I. and Ed, and all the other cons in prison with H.I. Everyone in the movie is fantastic.

Then too, there are some great chase scenes, one famously involving a grocery store, a suburban home, a pack of dogs and a bag of Huggies. All to the same soundtrack, though it changes to Muzak in the grocery store. There are lots of great throwaway bits, like one con talking about crawdads, and the Snotes brothers holding up a bank and getting thrown by their own stupidity. It’s full of throwaway bits, which makes them not so throwaway. They become an integral part of the whole, making up a movie that never leaves you without something to be paying attention to. Hell, even the beginning, where we meet H.I. and Ed on opposite sides of the law, is essential to it all.

It’s a well-crafted movie, from the casting to the script to the directing and the cinematography. And even if I can’t precisely empathize with Ed, who really provides the impetus for the heist the movie centers around, I can find sympathy for her situation. That sympathy makes the movie not just a slapstick comedy full of screaming and exploding dye bombs and Nic Cage’s hair. It makes you care while you laugh. I wish I could have communicated that to my grandfather. He still probably wouldn’t have appreciated it, but I’d have felt better for trying. Because it really is a modern classic, and well worth watching all the way through.

July 31, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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