Raising Arizona (1987)

A delightful, and very original, comedy. Unmistakenly a Coen brothers film; their unique tone and style of dialogue is at full force here. Holly Hunter delivers a fantastic performance, and Nic Cage acquits himself well in a role more well-suited to him than most.

There’s a deep undercurrent of sadness beneath the comedy, and the Coens deal with all the emotions of the film well. While Cage gets the lion’s share of screentime, Hunter really is the revelation here, and she imbues that bittersweet spirit a lot of the Coen comedies feature so well.

Some sequences are overlong, which can really kill the comedy at times. I don’t think the Coens had quite perfected their comic tone yet either; the dialogue occasionally grates (unlike the spectacular Fargo where the tone and larger-than-life dialogue works so well). I think some elaboration on the more interesting themes here (the “unfairness” of fertility, the human right to family and children, etc.) would have made for a stronger film too – the ending sequence is sweet, but I would have liked a bit more depth there. There are slow patches too, and the John Goodman outlaw subplot really drags the film down at times.

It’s a very enjoyable comedy with very enjoyable performances, and more on its mind that most screwball comedies like this. A fun film, but you can see the Coens still had plenty of developing to do before making their masterpieces.

I give it three dye canisters, and one Polack joke too many.


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