“Arizona”

 

            They're calling it a dark comedy, but it certainly isn't funny.  More like the desperate, leaning in to the absurd.

            Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is caught in one of those upside-down situations where she can't win.  She and her husband bought a house, back in the boom days of 2005, in sunny Arizona, complete with pool in the back and a nearby golf course soon to be built.  Then comes the economic bust.  Many people who shouldn't have been given house loans in the first place defaulted.  Home values plummeted. People were underwater on their mortgages---they owed more on their house than they could sell it for, if they could find a buyer at all.  People didn't have the reserves to bail themselves out. 

            Cassie's suburb is now pretty much abandoned.  The houses are all in foreclosure.  She's still trying to work for the real estate company that sold her the house in the first place, putting on her best happy face and optimistic outlook, when all the time she's fielding threatening calls from her own bill collectors.  Her husband left her for another (younger) woman.  Their daughter doesn't like being away from her friends, and plays the sullen adolescent enough to wear Cassie down.  What else could go wrong?

            Never ask that question.  Cassie's late to work at the real estate office because she has to take her daughter to school.  Her boss is giving her a hard time about it, when she gets another one of those nasty phone calls from the collection agency, which she's trying to deal with while her boss is arguing with a disgruntled client, Sonny (Danny McBride).  The argument escalates, and before Cassie can say “Man Overboard!,” Sonny has tussled her boss right over the railing and on to the parking lot below, where he's obviously dead.

            Sonny is sorry Cassie saw that, because now he's going to have to take Cassie home with him until he figures out what to do.  No, he doesn't want to call the police.  He's in a custody battle with his ex for his two kids, and he doesn't want to jeapordize those proceedings.  So he ties up Cassie with duct tape, but then speaks reasonably to her, as if they're going to figure this thing out together.  Then his ex-wife shows up.

            Well, you can see how it all goes straight downhill.  Let's see, there's a nosy neighbor, an uncaring guard at the gate entrance, a trigger-happy sheriff, Cassie's ex and his new girlfriend,, the sullen, pouty teenage daughter----an altogether stumblebum crew where even the chase scenes look ridiculous (Cassie's now jumping fences in a skirt, boots, and bra?). 

            Well, at least the violence, though personal, feels staged enough where we aren't cringing too badly (except with the poor dog).  It's the kind of movie where everything that can go wrong will.  And that sometimes feels a little too real for comfort.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association