After posting my quick look at what “The Big Lebowski” is really trying to say, I thought I would look at another Coen Brothers comedy, that is really more than just a comedy. “Raising Arizona” was made early on in the Coen Brothers career, but it is just as poignant and powerful as most of their other work.
On the surface, “Raising Arizona” is a comedy about an “ex-convict” who with his “ex-cop” wife, kidnap one of five babies, just birthed to the Arizona family. Plain and simple. Now, the theme behind this movie is a little more obvious than “The Big Lebowski”, but I usually feel a lot of the symbolism that illustrates this theme, can get lost on some.
So what is the theme? “Being of an adult age, does not mean you are ready to operate in this world”. Or maybe more simply, being an adult by age, does not make you an adult by nature.
Like past articles, I will try not to go into too much and just hit the major points, be it in order or not. This brings me to what I think is one of my favorite images in the film. When Gale and Evelle Snoats (John Goodman and William Forsythe) break out of prison, we see them coming out of a muddy hole outside the prison grounds. John Goodman’s head slowly pushes out of the pulsating mound that was made possible by torrential rains, as he screams with a face full of muddy slop sliding down. When he fully emerges, he plunges his hand down the hole and pulls out his brother whom he holds by one leg upside down as they both scream and wail. This is their birth unto the world. This is two men, coming out of a womb. And the shots resemble much of what you would see in a real birth as the baby cries as the doctor holds it upside down and slaps it. Now of course that may not be what really happens in most of the world, but it is an image that everyone has seen or heard before.
By the end of the movie, when Gale and Evelle figure that they just aren’t ready to be part of this world, they go back to the hole they came out of, which is now dried and caked over from the hot Arizona sun, as they climb back into their symbolic womb, because they just weren’t ready to deal with real life and the challenges it brings.
Now moving to our main characters, H.I. and Edwina (Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter) who have decided that since, Edwina, who can not have a child of her own, will steal one of the Arizona Quintuplets, since the Arizona’s probably have too much to handle on their own, so they won’t really mind.
I want to be clear on one thing before we move forward. While the actions of our protagonists is of course, something to be frowned upon, to put it lightly, they are truly at heart, decent people. H.I. is a repeat offender when it comes to late night convenient store hold ups, but he would never hurt another human being, that is clear. And it is funny, when he is trying to wrangle up the five Arizona children, as quiet as he can possibly be, as they mischievously crawl around their room. Most interesting of all is when one baby crawls underneath the crib and H.I. grabs the babies leg to pull him out from the tight space; the baby laughing the whole time. H.I.’s face, however, when he is being pulled out from under a car as he tried to escape from Bounty Hunter, Leonard Smalls; is one of pain and fear.
The shot and placement of the baby being pulled from under the crib, and the one of H.I. being pulled out from under the car are one in the same; H.I., is a child, who does things without thought of consequence or understanding of any kind. While we have empathy for H.I., he is ultimately a bad man trying to snatch this child. Leonard Smalls, is an evil man, and I would say the spiritual predecessor and similar character to that of Anton Chigurh of a more recent Coen Brothers film, “No Country for Old Men”. While the Coens did not write the story of “No Country for Old Men”, it is obvious why they decided to make the film, after seeing Randall “Tex” Cobb as Leonard Smalls. And now this purely evil man, is pulling H.I. out from under this car, as he tries to scurry away, attempting to save his life.
Once Smalls pulls H.I. out, and pummels him a bit more, he grabs H.I. in a bear hug and tries to squeeze the life out of him. With the small freedom he has with parts of his arms, H.I. flails out of pain and panic at the chest of Leonard Smalls, finally pulling aside part of Smalls’ vest to reveal a Woody Woodpecker tattoo. A snide looking Woody at that. The same exact Woody Woodpecker tattoo, that H.I. has. These two men, were at one time, one in the same. If H.I. doesn’t change his ways, he will become Leonard Smalls. And while this is a post about a movie that says, just because you are “grown up, doesn’t mean you are”, then what is Leonard Smalls. Well, Leonard Smalls is the person that thought he was ready for the world and since he didn’t know enough when he was younger or more probably, wasn’t raised by someone who was ready for the world either; he became a monster.
Man, I could just go on and on about this one, but this is meant to be a short run down, not a long one. I know I missed plenty of other things to talk about and really didn’t wrap this one up with a bow. But I think, if you watched this movie before, thinking it was just a comedy, take what you have read here and watch it again, and let me know what you think or see. It is one movie that you can always watch whenever it is on.