A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Arizona is a film noir-style thriller about a smart, resourceful real estate agent (Rosemarie DeWitt) who's drawn into a nightmarish series of events after witnessing a fight that turns fatal. Expect frequent bloody violence -- including beatings, fatal falls, shots to the head, a dog getting killed, and more. There's also pervasive strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and many others) and a scene set at an indoor marijuana farm. Several women in relationships are portrayed as shrewish and nagging. Danny McBride and Luke Wilson co-star.
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What's the story?
In ARIZONA, a smart, resourceful real estate agent named Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) -- who's dealing with Arizona housing developments that have become ghost towns thanks to the late-2000s financial collapse -- witnesses a fight that turns fatal. The accidental killer, Sonny (Danny McBride), may or may not be a hapless victim of circumstance. Either way, he draws Cassie and her family (Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson, Elizabeth Gillies) into a nightmarish series of events.
Is it any good?
This film noir-style thriller starts promisingly, then wilts badly. Early on, Arizona boasts a crisp script with characters who are revealed through action (e.g., Cassie keeps her head in an unexpected crisis, which foreshadows her later actions) and telling details (workers paint dead lawns green to keep property values up). DeWitt's Cassie is appealing: Despite her financially desperate situation, she keeps her values and wits about her. McBride's Sonny is another take on the actor's stock-in-trade talkative loose-cannon types, here darker than in previous versions. And the movie's scenario -- the recent housing crisis and the devastation it created -- is interesting. That devastation is represented by newly built and already empty McMansions and the desperation bubbling beneath the characters' surfaces (which may have driven one of them mad).
But about halfway through, the twists get tired, the ideas seem to run dry, and aspirations of black comedy evaporate. What started as something offbeat and clever devolves into another women-in-peril flick in which the characters keep finding golden opportunities to end the chase but choose to run instead. Too many times, you'll find yourself asking, "Well, you have a phone; why not call the police?" Sonny's walk on the wild side -- which becomes a swan dive into hell -- comes from nowhere. And it's worth asking why so many of the movie's female characters are portrayed as bickering shrews when no male ones are, and why so many female characters are knocked out when none of the male ones are. There's also some gratuitous imperiled-woman-in-a-bra foolishness, which might have read as a parody in another movie. Still, DeWitt shines in the lead role. It's unlikely that many will clamor for a sequel to this ultimately ordinary thriller, but it would almost be worth it to spend more time with the actress's all-business-in-the-clutch Cassie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Arizona. Did it shock you at first? Did it continue to shock you? Did it seem necessary? Was it interesting?
The film starts with a few surprises. Was it able to keep you guessing, or did you find it predictable?
What message does it send that a) several of the movie's female characters are portrayed as shrewish and nagging, while none of the men are, and b) several of the female characters are knocked unconscious, while none of the men are?
What does the term "film noir" mean? Does it apply to this movie?
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