Scenes I Go Back To: Raising Arizona

A mix of manic comedy, inventive camerawork, absurdism, and a surprisingly touching bit of family drama.

I’m trying to keep my selections for this here blogging project down to one film per director, which is really difficult when you get to the Coen brothers. Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski — Joel and Ethan Coen have made a career out of making movies full of memorable, quirky scenes in which their incredible dialog and knack for interesting characters are on full display. Even their lesser efforts — Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers — still have fantastic bits in them, bits that are oftentimes better than many other full-length films in their entirety.

Raising Arizona wasn’t the Coens’ first movie (that would be 1984’s Blood Simple), but it was the movie that really got people to start noticing them, with its mix of manic comedy, inventive camerawork, absurdism, and a surprisingly touching bit of family drama.

Nicolas Cage turns in the finest performance of his career as H.I. ​“Hi” McDunnough, the most hapless thief you can imagine. He’s been arrested so many times, he’s on a first name basis with Edwina ​‘Ed’ McDunnough (Holly Hunter), the police officer who always takes his mug shot. The two eventually fall in love and get married. H.I. promises to go straight, and everything seems to have ​“happily ever after” written all over it, except for one thing: the couple can’t have children.

What follows is a madcap adventure that involves babynapping, prison breaks, extortion, wife-swapping, and a bounty hunter named Leonard Smalls who looks like he just walked out of hell that morning. An adventure in which even a simple stop at the gas station to pick up some Huggies quickly escalates into one of the funniest high speed pursuits ever filmed.


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