(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Raising Arizona
Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max
The Pitch: A low-level criminal (Nicolas Cage) marries a decorated police officer (Holly Hunter), but after learning that they can’t have children the old-fashioned way, the pair decides to kidnap the infant son of a local furniture salesman and raise him as their own.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Cage and Hunter are both great, playing this mismatched pair of goobers who are somehow perfect for each other. But for me, the primary draw of this movie is its completely unique tone, courtesy of writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen. This was only their second feature film, but it’s wildly confident in its heightened language, its camera movement, and its overt ridiculousness. The movie was designed specifically to take them to the opposite end of the filmmaking spectrum from their debut movie, Blood Simple, and this exuberant, goofy film proved from their earliest days that they’re the type of directors who can seamlessly jump from one genre to another.
I’m not a parent, and neither were the Coens when they made this film in 1987. But despite not having that personal history of raising children themselves, the directors managed to make a movie that serves as a seemingly apt and definitely weird metaphor for the act of parenting itself. Watching Cage’s H.I. “Hi” McDunnough go on an epic foot chase, with a pack of dogs nipping at his heels and police officers firing shotguns at him, all while he’s just trying to secure some diapers for his (illegally) adopted son seems like a great illustration of what it must feel like to be a parent in this world, fighting off obstacles left and right and getting into seemingly life and death situations just to secure the most basic needs for your family.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget about Leonard Smalls, the deranged bounty hunter who may have been literally conjured up from hell in one of Hi’s dreams and dropped into their reality. I’ve heard Jeff Cannata on the /Filmcast joke about how his very young children seemed unwittingly hellbent on killing themselves, and the leather-clad, shotgun-toting, grenade-strapped Leonard Smalls seems like a representation of Death itself in this film, getting into a hand-to-hand brawl with Hi as the soul of this baby floats in the balance. And like so many wily cartoon heroes, it’s incredibly satisfying here to watch Hi use his head to come up with a creative way to send Death packing…at least for a little while.
Shamefully, I haven’t spent nearly enough time talking about Holly Hunter, and I apologize to her for that, but her performance, the parenting metaphors, Barry Sonnenfeld’s propulsive cinematography, Frances McDormand and John Goodman popping up in supporting roles, and the film’s breakneck pacing – in and out in an hour and a half – make this an exceedingly easy recommendation.
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