There is a brutal honesty to every Nicolas Cage performance. He can make good films great and bad films worse, but no one can deny that he puts every ounce of his energy into each performance. That is exactly what he does in the Coen Brothers’ “Raising Arizona.”
The film stars a wonderstruck Nicolas Cage as H.I. McDunnough, a convenience store robber who falls in love with and marries Ed (Holly Hunter), a policewoman. The two, wanting to have children despite Ed’s barrenness, conspire to steal one of the quintuplets born to the locally famous Arizona family.
Despite the witty and sharp comedic script written by the Coen Brothers, this film mostly resonates with me as a Nicolas Cage vehicle. Without Cage this could be a stylish yet heartless look at the life of a thief; however his performance syncs immediately with the audience and offers a film that is hilarious, cruel, and often sweet.
Although I’ve always said this is one of my least favorite Coen films, I still laugh harder and smile bigger watching “Raising Arizona” than I do watching most other films (but to be fair, I really love all 16 of their films, even the ones I claim to be my least favorites).
If “The Big Lebowski” is the Coens most irreverent, “Fargo” the most procedural, “No Country For Old Men” the most polished; then “Raising Arizona” is the Coens most silly film and I love every second of it.
A Few Notes:
- Probably one of my favorite opening pre-title sequences of all time.
- I’ll go ahead and start counting repeat performances: Frances McDormand-2, John Goodman-1, and M. Emmet Walsh-2
- The “Huggies” car chase. That is all.
- If I’m keeping count of dream sequences then we get another (or 2 actually) here that is integral to the plot and used to establish a new character in the first instance and lend an even more optimistic ending in the second instance.
- Speaking of optimistic endings, it is really strange for a Coen Brothers movie to end in a way where all the characters seemingly “win”, especially after “Blood Simple.”