Saturday, October 1, 2011

Raising Arizona (1987)

The First Comedy From The Coen Brothers

- Looking back at the current state of their filmogography, Joel and Ethan Coen seem to like to follow their highly-praised thrillers with screw ball comedies. Take a look at any part of the history of the Coens and you will see that comedies tend to trail their thrillers:

- Barton Fink (1991) was followed by The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

- Fargo (1996) was followed by The Big Lebowski (1998)

- The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) was followed by Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

- No Country For Old Men (2007) was followed by Burn After Reading (2008).

Raising Arizona (1987) was the first comedy from the Coen Brothers and the first example of this trend (following the Coens' first film Blood Simple (1984), a neo noir thriller).

The Coen Brothers' first feature film, Blood Simple, had a couple of larger-than-life characters but it was a generally believable and down-to-earth crime thriller. For their second film, Raising Arizona, the Coen Brothers deliver something very different: a really zany story that has a lot of heart and relatable family elements.

Raising Arizona sees an in-and-out of jail criminal H.I. McDunnough (Nicholas Cage, giving one of his greatest performances ever) falling in love with police officer Edwina 'Ed' McDunnough (Holly Hunter, also giving one of her greatest performances ever). The two are an unlikely couple but get married and hope to start a happy little trailer home family of their own. Bad news hits the couple when they realize that they cannot have children of their own and they resort to stealing one of the recently born Arizona quintuplets - born to furniture tycoon Nathan Arizona (a hilarious and scene-stealing Trey Wilson). Bounty hunters, swingers and bank robbers get in the McDunnough's way, naturally.

Again, the differences between Blood Simple and Raising Arizona are stark. Whereas Blood Simple is a very un-Coen Brothers film in its look and feel, albeit unique in many ways, Raising Arizona is, in my opinion, the first Coen Brothers film that crystal clearly bears a trademark Coen Brothers look and feel. The charming bumble-speak of H.I., the oddball violence, an especially excellent John Goodman, the witty and individual dialogue and many of the other elements that make up Raising Arizona create a film of the uniquely-Coen Brothers style. Raising Arizona was the first Coen Brothers comedy and remains one of the funniest of the Brothers' films to this day.

CBC Ratings: 9/10

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