Friday, October 2, 2009

Raising Arizona

It can be argued that it is quite easy to make a very personal situation universal. After all, many people experience many similar situations, and the stages of life are often repeated between generations. Following that logic, can one make a completely absurd situation seem universal? Well, Raising Arizona is evidence that is possible as well.

From old Movies at Random favorites the Coen Brothers, in a relatively early example of their being totally awesome at movies, we get a simple story about a couple wanting a baby. The couple in question consists of pre-crazy Nicholas Cage as H.I., a convenience store stickup...well artist really isn't the right word, since he gets caught all the time. He falls in love with Ed, played by Holly Hunter, the police officer who is always booking him. He decides to go straight so they can get married and raise a family. The family doesn't come, but discount magnate Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) has five babies! Five! Since they figure they'll never have one of their own, H.I. and Ed decide that the best thing to do would be to steal one. Then a bunch of increasingly bizarre chases happen - including a pure genius one involving the police, dogs, and a supermarket - and we have a situation that has never actually faced anyone, but is completely universal.

Raising Arizona is all about anxiety, especially the anxiety inherent in becoming a parent for a first time. There are questions about whether or not you can get a kid, whether you can raise them when you do get one, and whether a gigantic guy with a beard and grenades will try to steal him away. Okay, that last one is more symbolic than an actual fear by many parents, but that's kind of the point. It lets you laugh at the increasingly ridiculous worries these people face, since you know that an embryonic version rests in all of us.

One day I'll talk about pre- and post-crazy Nicholas Cage, but I think we need a good post-crazy entry before we get to that point. While he's so goofy you wonder how he became a leading man, he's turns in a great performance here. H.I. needs to be a strange looking guy with a goofy voice, and if there's an actor alive who fits that description, it's Steve Buscemi. However, Nicholas Cage also fits that description and he can play a loser with the best of them.

Now, I've never been a parent, though I know people who are, but I am no stranger to anxiety. Worries can start small and escalate into a scary bounty hunter of a concern if they're allowed to persist, and it's nice to see a movie that confronts the ridiculous things resting in the subconscious head on. It's nice to see that all the worries a parent might ever experience are confronted head on in a variety of different ways. It's as though the film is saying, it's okay, it's normal to worry, if just by including anything one could be anxious about somewhere in the film. That's the beauty, no matter how ridiculous it might be, you're going to see something you've worried about represented in the film.

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