by Haley GoetzRaising Arizona is a slapstick comedy, but not in the traditional sense. In a nutshell, the film is wonderful because it’s essentially about Nic Cage stealing babies in the desert while a random bearded dude on a motorcycle stalks him. Directed by Joel Coen and his brother Ethan (who is uncredited), the film tells the story of a couple who get in over their heads after pulling some rather illegal maneuvers. The Coens’ classic style of dialogue is laced throughout, with its singular blend of comedy and realism. Along with this, the stark Western landscapes nicely frame the characters by providing wide-open backdrops for them to interact in. While this film doesn’t have the finesse of, say, The Big Lebowski, it still stacks up there among the best of their filmography.
Nicolas Cage plays Herbert I. “Hi” McDunnough, a lowly robber of sorts. When he meets the charming Ed (Holly Hunter) and subsequently falls in love with her, they decide to start a family together. But there’s only one hitch: Ed is infertile. Hi therefore takes it upon himself to find some children for the two of them to raise. He decides to kidnap the quintuplets of Nathan Arizona, Sr. (Trey Wilson), a local wealthy man. A bearded bounty hunter named Leonard Smalls (Randall “Tex” Cobb) is enlisted to track down the missing children, and that is where the fun truly begins.
This film displays the talents of the Coen Brothers duo at their finest. The writing is whip-smart — even though the characters are somewhat simple people, some large words are still thrown in the mix which provides an interesting effect. While this is a bit confusing at times, it allows for the comedic aspects of the film to shine. Along with this, Raising Arizona displays the Coens’ knack for understanding their characters. This shows in the ways that the actors in the film carry themselves and speak to one another.
As Hi, Nic Cage gives a great performance that is quite nuanced at times. He’s a man that just wants to do right for his life partner and he’s endearing in that respect. Holly Hunter is also fantastic as Ed, cajoling Hi at times while also being there for him. They’re a loving couple, as twisted as their relationship actually is. Love is love, though, and the relationship Hi and Ed have is given ample room for growth on screen. This is demonstrated through their affectionate yet action-oriented hijinks.
A comedic film about the great American West, Raising Arizona truly stands apart in the Coen filmography, and rightly so.
4 out of 5 stars