Raising Arizona Term Paper

Pages: 7 (1939 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

Raising Arizona: Film Analysis

The film, Raising Arizona (1987), directed by Joel Coen, was a box office success when it was released in 1987, and continues to be successful today in rental and DVD sales because it parodies family and social issues that are consistent in American society. Using comedy and parody, director Joel Coen expertly employs filmmaking techniques and makes directorial choices that support this film's success in a way that is timeless. This essay will explore the filmmaking techniques, social issues, and the directorial choices in the making of this great film and comedy.

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The opening scene is one that serves not just to draw the viewer into the film in an entertaining way, but helps introduce the relationship and moods of the main characters' personalities. H.I. McDonnough, a small-town career criminal, played by actor Nicolas Cage, is arrested - again. Edwina, played by actress Holly Hunter, is taking H.I.'s mug shots. The scene in the police station shows H.I. stands against the line tape and we know that he is six feet tall, disheveled in his unbuttoned and colorful Hawaiian shirt, his thick mass of dark and uncontrollable manly chest hair showing above his Italian t-shirt line and he stares with a love-struck look at Edwina. The image is one that speaks to who this character is; the small-time career criminal who robs a convenient or liquor store dressed in the most identifiable way, and who is promptly apprehended. H.I.'s appearance is suggestive of the disorganization and lack of control that he has in his life, and his failure as a criminal is suggestive of the fact that maybe he might consider a different line of work - a different life.

No small wonder that H.I. is attracted to Officer Edwina. Edwina is the essence of organization, dressed in her impeccably neat and pressed blue police uniform with her officer's cap perfectly fitting and in place. Edwina represents all that is lacking in H.I.'s own life; organization, focus, discipline, and the rules and law.

Term Paper on Raising Arizona Assignment

The director has contrasted the two characters by wardrobe choices that help announce their personalities. As Edwina shouts instructions to H.I. To turn right, turn left, face front, he complies, indicating that he, like real life people, responds to structure and organization in a positive way. It is, perhaps, his own disorganization and confusion in himself that lends itself to his poor choice in career, and then to the fact that he does not do it well.

The scene cuts to the next time that H.I. is, once again, apprehended for a robbery and is, once again, being instructed by Edwina; right, left, front. This time, as he complies, he flirts with Edwina, whose response is stoic, focused, and professional. H.I. does not let up, and then, to the director's credit here and to mention, too, the acting skill and expertise of Holly Hunter, Edwina breaks down and laughs. H.I. has succeeded in beating the system where he has previously failed. The badge on Edwina's chest becomes H.I.'s personal merit badge of having moved beyond the career criminal stage in his life. The switch in Edwina from serious and emotionless to love, full of laughter and emotion, is captured with direct close up shots of both H.I. And Edwina. The close up shots capturing the expression of the characters will become increasingly important as the film proceeds.

Life in the McDonnough mobile is home is good, and reflects the presence of Edwina; neat, clean, organized, attractive. H.I. has let go of his criminal ways to pursue a real job, and life in the desert is good for himself and Edwina. The problem arises when Edwina, like their desert surrounds, decides that she is barren, is unable to conceive a child. This is beyond Edwina's control, and because she is a controlling personality, it throws her into a depression over which H.I. is hard put to cope with. H.I. is, like most career criminals, an opportunity a spontaneous man who takes advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to him. He is poorly equipped intellectually or socially to deal with Edwina's lack of control over their lives, because he counts on her to control things for him and to keep him organized and functional.

H.I.'s concern for Edwina and the urgency he exudes in his desires expressed through the dialogue to help her snap out of it is in fact the urgency of his own needs to have the control back in his life, the organization that Edwina maintains for him. It is when it is announced that the local auto dealer-mogul has been blessed with quadruplets that Edwina decides life is too cruel; and H.I.'s criminal past and thinking, for the first time, becomes the source of salvation for the couple. They will help themselves to one of mogul Nathan Arizona's children; they probably won't even miss one, H.I. convinces Edwina.

The scene cuts to the Arizona desert where the Arizona family lives. Florence Arizona, played by Lynne Dumin Kitei, is in her living room knitting when H.I. And Edwina arrive in the night with an extension ladder atop the roof of their sedan. The house is lit up, lights on from every window, a sign of the warmth and happiness that overflows the home, the light glowing beyond the walls of the inside and into the dark of the desert night where Edwina and H.I. sit parked, willing the courage to help themselves to one of the quints.

The scene in the car is a close tight one it symbolizes the closeness of the couple in their relationship. Edwina has pulled out of her depression, is in charge again and instructing H.I., "You go in there and bring me back a baby." H.I., as he has always done, responds to the Edwina's control and authority in a positive way and moves to the house with his extension ladder.

While Florence knits in her downstairs living room, H.I. has put his ladder outside the nursery and has climbed to the nursery window where he watches the children as they lay awake in the brightly lit room, playing in their cribs. H.I., symbolically, comes in from the dark as he moves from the darkness of the night and into the nursery. He is, symbolically, for the first time the center of his family and in charge. However, as H.I. attempts to choose the child that he thinks is the right one for him and Edwina, as is the case whenever H.I. turns to crime, the situation quickly gets out of control. Soon, there are babies going in every direction, and the camera pulls back, catching the full scene as H.I. scrambles about, picking one up, rescuing the other from a hazardous situation, putting them in their beds, putting them on the floor; and chaos reigns. All the while, Florence sits downstairs, every once in a while looking up at an odd sound from the upstairs nursery where she thinks the quints are in bed.

Finally, almost as though he's choosing a puppy, H.I. makes the choice of the baby and climbs back out of the window and returns to an anxiously awaiting Edwina. H.I. And Edwina return to their mobile home that is completely unprepared for the arrival of the child. H.I. places "Nathan, Jr.," on the couch, where the viewer immediately feels the cringe of H.I.'s inappropriate parenting choice in placing the child in dangerous chair situation. Edwina and H.I., like many young couples, are totally unprepared for what to expect as parents. The camera captures the expressions on the faces of the actors who so expertly convey the fear, anxiety, and awe at the mystery of life and challenge before them in the body of a tiny person. As is the case in their relationship, and as has been the case from the beginning, Edwina takes control.

In the mean time, the camera cuts to the scene back at the Arizona home where it is being discovered that a child is missing. The scene is amusing, Florence and Nathan Arizona stand in the nursery observing the children crawling in every direction, and it is easy to read the tenseness in Nathan's expression as he is suddenly out of his used car comfort zone and in the midst of innocent babies - his offspring. Here, we see that Nathan Arizona shares H.I.'s anxiousness at finding himself out of his element in the midst of the many children.

The police are summoned to the Arizona home as a result of the missing offspring - although it is more at Florence's insistence than Nathan's, as Nathan has suggested that maybe they won't miss one. Florence, of course, is appalled, and demands her offspring back. Here, the mogul is out of his element; in the family setting, the police arrive and take charge of his environment, and the actor conveys this with great success.

In the mean time, as the director cuts back to the McDonnough's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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