FILMS: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

RAISING ARIZONA

Directed by Joel Coen

LAWRENCE O’TOOLE March 23 1987
FILMS: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

RAISING ARIZONA

Directed by Joel Coen

LAWRENCE O’TOOLE March 23 1987

RAISING ARIZONA

Directed by Joel Coen

Tired of holding up convenience stores—and going to prison for it—H. I. McDonnough (Nicolas Cage) decides to settle down and raise a family. He marries Ed, short for Edwina (Holly Hunter), an officer who once booked him into prison. But

there is a slight hitch: Ed is barren. When the unhappy newlyweds learn of a baby windfall—blond male quintuplets—born to an Arizona family, they kidnap one for themselves. The tale grows more complicated when H. L, who is also the film’s deadpan narrator, encounters two former prison friends, Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (Bill Forsythe), who steal the baby back for a $25,000 reward. Raising Arizona is a madcap meditation on American society. Its characters believe in UFOs, live in mobile homes

and wear curlers in their hair—the pages of the National Enquirer come to life.

Written by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan (Blood Simple), the film is also an updated version of the 1938 comedy Bringing Up Baby, substituting a real toddler for the leopard that kept Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn so dizzily and romantically frantic. Cage, who looks as if he has just gotten out of bed, and Hunter, who has a gift for constrained hysteria, are wonderfully dopey counterparts. To that mix the Coens have added cartoon-like chases and deliciously droll dialogue. Holding up a store, Evelle adds a package of balloons to his loot and asks if they blow up into funny shapes. The owner replies, “Not unless you think round is

funny.” Except for a few moments of excessive cuteness, Raising Arizona is a bouncy bit of business.

LAWRENCE O’TOOLE