Nicolas Cage, what can I say about that legend? He’s become somewhat of a cultural icon for fans of cinema. The “bad” Nic Cage performance is the stuff of legend, and you can watch movies like The Wicker Man and Left Behind for that. But ever so occasionally, he pulls a movie out of the bag that brings him critical and audience appreciation from around the globe. He’s done it with Mandy, Face/Off and Joe, but it all started with Raising Arizona.
I was on somewhat of a Coen Brothers binge already, having watched A Serious Man for the first time, I thought it only fair to watch some of their earlier work too. It’s not that their earlier work is bad, it just doesn’t match with the standards of their best, more recent works. Now hear me out on that, because Raising Arizona is still a good movie, it’s just got a few major problems that stop it being anything more than that.
By far the largest problem of all may actually be the sole reason I watched this movie, Nicolas Cage. His role is strong enough, but his performance feels nuanced and doesn’t do anything for me. As far as Coen character building goes, this is definitely their blandest attempt at bringing us a character. A good performance that should’ve been so much more, and it may be the limitations of the story that stop Cage from reaching a greater level with his performance.
It’s certainly a well-remembered performance of his, and I suppose that’s not only because of the Academy Award win but it’s also one of the rarely wholesome performances of his. His erratic behaviours towards other roles have combined rather vivaciously with some of his chosen directors, but the Coen’s manage to hide this over the top side to Cage.
Holly Hunter then steals the show, given that Cage is neither zany or all that interesting. Hunter’s character here is baby obsessed, and it’s pretty much the driving force of the plot. That being said, I didn’t find the plot all that interesting and maybe it does lie in some of the subplots. John Goodman seems all but wasted in a role that should’ve been larger than it was.
For what it is though, Raising Arizona is a solid Coen entry. At least it’s better than Burn After Reading anyway. Solid enough performances hold together a fairly weak story and a string of interesting set pieces, helmed by two of the most prolific directors of all time.