An offbeat and whimsical fantasy, ARIZONA DREAM is a lovingly crafted film with yet another quietly intense performance by Johnny Depp.
Axel (Depp) is a young man who works for the Department of Fish and Game, tagging fish in New York harbor while waxing philosophical about the honesty of fish and the importance of dreams. His reveries are disrupted when Cousin Paul (Vincent Gallo) is sent by Axel's Uncle Leo (Jerry Lewis), an
incredibly wealthy Arizona car dealer, to bring Axel home for Leo's wedding to Millie (Paulina Porizkova), a woman half his age and subject to crying jags. Back in Arizona, Axel meets suicidal copper heiress Grace (Lili Taylor) and her flirty, flaky stepmother Elaine (Faye Dunaway). Axel becomes
involved with Elaine and builds man-powered flying machines for her, but someone keeps smashing them. Accordion-wielding, turtle-nurturing Grace is his prime suspect, but it might be that giant halibut swimming in the Arizona breeze.
This independently produced 1992 film--the first in English by Bosnian-born director Emir Kusturica (TIME OF THE GYPSIES, UNDERGROUND)--has a dreamy, dazzling texture and non-linear story that often slides gracefully into surreal images. While the rambling plot and quirky dialogue sag in places,
the richly detailed sets and deeply layered visuals are constantly entertaining; every moment is filled to bursting with things to look at and listen to. Characters and events often wobble unsteadily between parody and self-parody--a recurring Kusturica problem--but the actors embrace their roles
with energy and intelligence. Lewis is only slightly awful, and he and Depp have a nice rapport; Dunaway gives a particularly juicy performance; and Taylor is simply amazing, seemingly able to transform herself physically for every role she plays.
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