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‘Arizona’ (review)

Produced by Danny McBride,
Brandon James, Dan Friedkin,
Bradley Thomas, Ryan Friedkin

Screenplay by Luke Del Tredici
Directed by Jonathan Watson
Starring Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt,
Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson,
Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson

 

The housing market crash of 2006 saw a plethora of people abandon their homes, default on payments and simply run away from it all.

Lush rich neighbors were quickly transformed into deserted islands filled with overgrown lawns, boarded up windows and expensive properties overtaken by squatters.

Then there’s Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) who in 2009 is a struggling real estate agent in Arizona just trying to keep it all together.

Her fake it, til you make it (again) approach is to sell these newly foreclosed homes to customers (and their wallets) who probably know better. Undeterred and sounding like an episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, she rambles about te need for customized fixtures, luxurious pools and quiet neighbors (because everyone has moved away) as spray-painted grass hangs in the distance.

Advertised as place “Where Life Imitates Vacation,” Cassie is living a lie (as well as the remaining residents).

She’s six months behind in her mortgage, her boss (Seth Rogen) is harassing her, her daughter Morgan (Lolli Sorenson) constantly fights with her; she is determined to not knowledge her world is crashing in front of her or receive aid from her ex-husband (Luke Wilson).

Unfortunately, things for Cassie gets worse when Sonny (Danny McBride), a former client holds them hostage as payback for Cassie preying on Sonny to mortgage his home that left him bankrupt and divorced. It is now up to Cassie to use her smarts and inner fortitude to fight for her and her daughter’s survival.

Promising in its premise and setup, Arizona has all the makings of becoming the next Falling Down meets The Big Short.

Unfortunately, Watson doesn’t have the insight to create a truly entertaining and thoughtful script about the affects of the housing market crash, lives destroyed and dreams broken. Instead, the audience is treat to a forgettable dark comedy that doesn’t even succeed at being a hack-and-slash film.

For the first thirty-minutes, Watson successfully creates a visual image that allows the audience feel the ruins of a once great neighborhood, it’s broken dreams and gluttony. Art is an integral part of the film, showcases pretentious expensive abstract art that decorate yards and inside of homes. Even aerial shots feature the pristine nature of homes once lived in. This is a metaphor for both Cassie and a town living a lie.

Sadly, Watson’s directing skills are tarnished by Luke Del Tredici’s script.

Poorly written, it sees both McBride and DeWitt as bumbling idiots that does a disservice to their talents. Everyone seems confused in their roles, determined to play their characters as one-dimensional. At its heart, Sonny is a broken man who longs for someone to reach out and listen to him.

However, McBride plays his part as a joke, rambling about knives from Kohls and his new invention of wine ice cubes; sucking the life out of any comedy this film intended to feature. Between his screaming tantrums, the audience never feels any sense of danger or tension between the characters. Without allowing McBride to act with range his scenes are simply Danny McBride being Danny McBride; it’s draining.

DeWitt who was brilliant in the Black Mirror “Arkangle’s”episode, is now reduced to screaming on camera and hiding, running and stumbling from McBride’s acting. All of her intelligence, is wiped away from her memory, never to be seen again. However, there are cracks of intelligence when Cassie uses her knowledge of the neighborhood to plot her escape.

Clocking in at little over an hour, the short runtime does make this a less torturous film. It is still painful to watch something with such great premise and beginning collapse into a mess not worth saving. As Sonny takes the title as the “dumbest serial killer,” the film continues to spiral out of control with stale violence, random characters, a lack of genuineness, no real consequences and poor attempts at humor.

Overall, Arizona is frustrating to watch and truly wants its audience to be miserable. Failing to fit in any genre, it’s sad to see a promising possibilities washed away because of juvenile direction and poor storytelling.

 

Arizona is now playing in theaters and is available on VOD and Digital HD.

 

 

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