Uncaged - Raising Arizona (1987) & Moonstruck (1987)
This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me.
Raising Arizona (1987)
1987 would be something of a banner year for Nic Cage. After showing promise as a leading man in roles in movies like Racing with the Moon and Birdy, he firmly established himself as a comic actor of considerable talent. The Coen Brothers always have such a specific, almost mannered tone in their dialogue and the way they shoot their movies that they have to cast actors who are sensitive to their sensibilities. Raising Arizona is basically a big ol’ Looney Tunes cartoon, and Nic Cage may be giving the biggest performance of all in a whole slew of big performances. When you have to say lines like “her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase,” you have to be on the exact same wavelength of the people who wrote such Biblically inspired prose, and Nic Cage’s deadpan when he says it is perfect. Cage’s voiceover is important in setting the tone for the film and putting it squarely in the realm of tall tales. Also, this film is further evidence for my theory of how Cage really shines when he has a strong ensemble around him. When Cage is floppy and defeated, Hunter can be even more floppy and defeated as his no-nonsense wife (and equally hilarious). He is often funny when he is standing opposite people who are just so different from him in every way such as John Goodman and his imposing and threatening demeanor or Sam McMurray as the cowardly swinger husband that propositions him and his wife.
This movie is Italian with a capital “Eye.” Much of this comedy simply resides in this neighborhood of Brooklyn and familiarizes with the very familiar types of people that live there. Cher plays what I thought was a very convincing Italian-American widow who agrees to marry Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), who is understandably set on doing things right since she believes her disregard of tradition and protocol resulted in her previous husband’s death. Of course, Nicolas Cage’s Ronny, brother to Johnny, throws a wrench into Loretta’s life when he relentlessly romances her out of revenge against his brother, who he blames for his wooden hand, but later a real romance blooms between them. So far, Cage hasn’t really played into his Italian roots all that much but he does so here with a vengeance. He easily could have been a cartoon, and he is in many ways, but he is also so funny in his overly romantic attitude and, more importantly, totally sincere. We get that Cher’s Loretta would be both repelled by Ronny’s aggressiveness and disregard for her thoughts but also charmed by his unabashed emotionality. Of course, the title and other characters suggest that it is the big, crazy moon that is responsible for everyone acting a little cuckoo (Loretta’s own parents are having romantic adventures of their own.) But the movie is much more realistic than this when Loretta’s parents realize their foolishness and the bond that they have from such a long marriage. Loretta and Ronny can only hope that their love can somehow mature into the relationships that they see around them.