Raising Arizona (1987)

Eccentricity rules in the Coen brother films. Before I knew who writing/producing/directing team Joel and Ethan were, I was already a big fan of this, their second feature film. I had watched several times with my sister Salomé and we could probably recite the entire film by heart when we were in high school.

The enchanting feature in this film are the pure emotion Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter put into their characters as parents who are unable to have children. The fact that one is a law enforcement officer and the other is a re-offending armed robber doesn't detract that these two really are in love and really want to have a family. Their situation, as sad and affecting as it is, also doesn't detract from the hilarity of their lives. And that's why I keep coming back for more.

The two jailbirds (one of them John Goodman, a Coen bros. regular), the Arizona family, and the painful family of Cage's foreman round out the absurd cast. Each brings a charicature of americana that makes the American dream that much more ridiculous. I especially enjoy how much each character so eagerly pursues materialism while displaying overt unhappiness. This makes us that much more sympathetic to the erring protagonist couple. What's fun too is that there really are no holds barred for the writers; Pollack jokes and irreverent offers by Nathan Arizona make you twinge, but they also reveal so much about American culture.

I have a couple favorite lines in the film: When Hunter finally meets her baby for the first time, she is overwhelmed with emotion and gushes over and over "I love him soooooo much" and Cages final narrating line in the film about Utah is pure gold.

The accompanying soundtrack is quite simple and beautiful using Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as a regular theme but on guitars with humming and whistling.

I actually got something new watching it this time. I understood the villain's relationship to the protagonist in a much deeper sense than the temporal. It finally clicked when the Woody Woodpecker tattoos were revealed. The matter of liberty for Cage's character is quite succinct once the biker warthog from hell dies (the same way as Randal 'Tex' Cobb is killed in Uncommon Valour).

Here's to watching No Country for Old Men before it hit's DVD!


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