Arizona Dream


Arizona Dream

Critics Consensus

Inscrutably strange, yet undeniably compelling, Arizona Dream is anchored by magnetic performances from Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway.



Total Count: 15


Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,416
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Movie Info

Director Emir Kusturica and screenwriter David Atkins crafted this absurdist comedy in which Johnny Depp plays Axel Blackmer, who lives in New York State and is obsessed with fish. He tags fish and monitors their habits for a living, but his greatest curiosity is when and how they dream. Axel's uncle, Leo Sweetie (Jerry Lewis) would prefer Axel take over the family business, a Cadillac dealership in Tucson, Arizona; against his better judgment, Axel drives from New York to Arizona to check out the lot and attend Leo's wedding to Millie (Paulina Porizkova), a woman who is hoping that marriage will keep her from crying all the time. While watching the Cadillacs, Leo meets Elaine Stalker (Faye Dunaway), the sexy widow of a wealthy mine owner, and the two strike up a romance, while Elaine's daughter Grace (Lili Taylor) wanders through her mother's home playing "Besame Mucho" on the accordion to her pet turtles. Needless to say, Warner Bros, the film's United States distributor, didn't figure this was a sure bet for box-office success, and they trimmed Arizona Dream of 22 minutes before putting it into limited release and eventually dumping it onto home video without opening it in most major cities. Kusturica's original 142-minute cut was released in Europe (where it did respectable if not ground-shaking business) and to a few art houses in America; the shortened 120-minute version is available on home video.


Patricia O'Grady
as MC/Announcer
Eric Polczwartek
as Man With Door
Kim Keo
as Mechanical Doll
Sal Jenco
as Man at the Phone
Vincent Tocktuo
as Eskimo Man
Santos Romero
as Mariachi Band Member
David Rodriguez
as Mariachi Band Member
Juan Urrea
as Mariachi Band Member
Jose Luis Avila
as Mariachi Band Member
Sergio Hlarmendaris
as Mariachi Band Member
Frank Turley
as Mariachi Band Member
Manuel Ruiz
as Mariachi Band Member
Narcisco Dominguez
as Mariachi Band Member
Benjamin S. Gonzales
as Mariachi Band Member
Serafino Flores
as Mariachi Band Member
Miguel Moreno
as Mariachi Band Member
Raphael Salcido
as Mariachi Band Member
Chanaia Rodriguez
as Mariachi Band Member
View All

News & Interviews for Arizona Dream

Critic Reviews for Arizona Dream

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (2)

  • Kusturica grafts his sometimes unwieldy Europe-inflected concerns onto brash American landscapes with mixed results. Much is made of dreams that, either spoken of at length or illustrated, are offered in lieu of character development.

    Dec 1, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The first 'American' film by the director of Time of the Gypsies is every bit as bizarre and imaginative as his earlier work, although it's also maddeningly indulgent and erratic.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Even at its full length, showing off a more seductive rhythm and the buoyant humanism that is this director's calling card, it remains as ripe a subject for therapy as for criticism.

    Aug 30, 2004
  • Depp yet again reveals his unique ability to be the seductive yet compassionate idealist, discovering strength in tenderness.

    Feb 13, 2001 | Full Review…
  • Imagination is a gift. It bestows power, insight and the ability to dream. It takes courage to dream on a big scale, which is what Emir Kusturica does in Arizona Dream, a wonderfully absurdist comedy...

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • You can't stop watching because nobody in the audience, and possibly nobody on the screen, has any idea what's going to happen next.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Arizona Dream

  • Nov 30, 2012
    "Arizona dreamin' on such a winter's day!" Man, I just couldn't resist doing that, but I don't exactly know if that's the most fitting '60s song for a film like this, as this weird little number needs some more psychedelia and little less The Mamas and the Papas, and plus, this film doesn't have a fat Mama, that's the other Johnny Depp-starring deserty location-set drama from 1993. Jeez, after this film, you'd think that Johnny Depp would get burned out on drugs-I mean, films of this type. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that Depp even had time in 1993 for another film, not necessarily because I'd imagine it took them so long to make this film, seeing as how it was all over and done with by January, with "Gilbert Grape" expecting a December release date, because this film takes about a whole year to watch. No, people, this film isn't that long, though it is perhaps longer than it should be, and gets to be pretty weird along way, as I would expect from a film directed by a Serbian, because as Srđan Spasojević definately proved 17 years after this film, Serbians can get pretty crazy with their experimental films. Shoot, Emir Kusturica was born in Yugoslavia, which actually sounds like some the slurs of some kind of drunk psychedelic rock musician (*cough*Doug*cough*In*cough*gle*cough*). Eh, whatever, at least Kusturica (Sounds like Costa Rica) knows how to make a good film, and yet, this film isn't exactly a dream, going held back by, of course, it's occasionally getting maybe a bit too strange for its own good. Okay, now, with all of my going on and on about how strange this film gets, the surrealist aspects only come into play here and there, yet when they do hit the scene, whether they're in the form of a dream sequence or just a weird stylistic or storytelling touch to supplement reality, they distance you a bit with their being typically gratuitous and occasionally convoluted, if not seemingly pointless thematically, alone, and when you take into consideration the surrealism's being inconsistently used enough to create a sense of thematic unevenness, you're further knocked out of the for a moment. Of course, the unevenness most definately doesn't simply end with the stylistic choices, because even though this film keeps consistent in delivering rewarding yet a touch flawed aspects, most major aspects make their share of inoraganic shifts, with humor sometimes jerking from cleverly sharp to a bit overbearing (Thank goodness the sequences in which several people talk loudly about different topis simultaneously are lacking) or even just plain absurdist (Johnny Depp's Axel Blackmar's acting like a chicken whenever Lili Taylor's Grace Stalker character plays the accordion is hilarious but comes out of nowhere). Even the character aspects get to be a touch messy, as certain characters' level of prominence gets to be a touch inconsistent, with a couple of characters, some of which are fairly major, taking on additional aspects that don't quite gel with what was already well-established in initial characterization, while at least keeping consistent in certain aspects that feel a bit farfetched and slightly distance you from the humanity of the characters, no matter how well they're portrayed. Of course, as you would probably expect from the runtime, one of your more notable aspects that go tainted by a bit of unevenness is pacing, which, quite frankly, doesn't drop into inconsistency too often, and rarely, if even gets to be too jarring in its unevenness, yet is just frequently and intensely uneven enough for the film's dances between a degree of material excessiveness and moderately overbearingly frenetic hurrying - occasionally through the dreaded montage - to feel a bit off-putting. Of course, with all of its moments of hurrying, the film keeps consistent in excessiveness just enough to ultimately come out as a touch too long, which isn't to say that this subject matter doesn't deserve a bit of lengthiness, as there is enough depth to perhaps sustain a reasonably hefty runtime, but not like this. The final product is just a little bit bloated around the edges, as sure it gets to be a bit too inconsistent in quite a few somewhat major areas, and really, I feel that this film deserves better than that, boasting subject matter that is potent and certainly aids in the final product's being as rewarding as it is, yet stands to be handled a bit better. Still, as things stand, with all of its faults, the final product comes out hitting much more often than not, not simply thanks to the very worthy subject matter, but because of what is done right with the handling of the subject matter, or at least the style. As I said, quite a few of the film's stylistic touches prove to be a smidge problematic, being not just, like most everything else in this film, a bit uneven, but sometimes a touch too distancingly strange when it slips into surrealism, yet when style does hit, it genuinely does, in fact, grace the film with supplementation to thematic depth, or, if nothing else, plenty of additional color, which wouldn't be as striking as it is without the sharpness in the execution of the stylistic concepts. Andrija Zafranović's editing is only used as a major supplement to style here and there, but when editing does come in as part of the style, it really snaps, with plenty of clever uniqueness and sharp technical competence, while Goran Bregović's soundtrack musically hit-or-miss (Oh man, the Iggy Pop songs, particulary the theme song, "In the Deathcar", are lame) yet stylishly unique soundtrack compliments the effective moments in the film's strangeness, and Vilko Filač's lovely cinematography catches your eye with its somewhat dated yet undeniably handsomely well-defined, lit and colored grace. The film's stylistic choices don't always work, yet they pierce when they hit and never cease to further colorize an already very colorful film, which is what you can say about the humor, which doesn't always hit, and occasionally throws off the film's momentum a bit, but hits much more often than not, turning in many a memorable comic dialogue or set piece whose effectiveness ranges from fairly chuckle-worthy to downright ripping. I must admit that I went into this film fearing some slowness, but in the long run, I ended up facing a very stylish, humorous and altogether thoroughly entertaining product that keeps you going through thick and thin with its unapologetically striking colorfulness, alone, while truly compelling, not with style or humor, but with substance, which stands to go executed a bit better, yet boasts enough value and potential in concept to create a fairly potent degree of immediate intrigue, intensified by what is done right in Emir Kusturica's directorial execution, which does indeed get quite a bit right. Time and again, Kusturica's storytelling faults, though rarely, if ever all that severely, and when the palpably very inspired Kusturica hits particularly hard, the film is truly sparked to life, for although the immense charm and entertaining color within Kusturica's atmosphere prove to be enough to make the film consistently engrossing, Kusturica really ices the cake when it comes to dramatic resonance, which is often diluted a bit by certain especially gratuitous stylistic touches (I don't know about y'all, but I don't necessarily want some kind of intense actiony music blaring during a big, somber death scene), yet not so much so that Kusturica is unable to gracefully draw enough dramatic energy to ignite effective emotional resonance that helps in defining the final product's depth and goes further sold by the performances, all of which help in carrying this film, both as a charmer and dramatic piece. Each member of this cast is electrically charismatic, with Vincent Gallo and the somewhat underused Jerry Lewis particularly charming whenever they hit the scene, while the lovely Lili Taylor enthrallingly steals the show at times through a convincing, layered and sometimes emotionally-charged presence as an unpredictably mysterious, self-endangering and overall darkly unstable eccentric, when the show is not stolen by a just as effectively convincing and emotionally-charged Faye Dunaway as the spirited yet self-concious and flawed aging beauty, and when leading man Johnny Depp is given more to do than be smoothly and sometimes deliciously, spiritedly charismatic, or rather, Johnny Depp, he delivers on powerful emotional range, both of a broad and piercingly atmospheric nature, that defines the Axel Blackmar character, both as the human into whom Johnny Depp becomes (Partially because Johnny Depp is playing Johnny Depp again) and as a worthy lead. With a bit more work, this film could have been much more effective, and with quite a bit more work, it very well could have been excellent, but through all of the shortcomings, you can expect to find a film that entertains and compels with style and resonance, and leaves you walking away generally satisfied. When the dream ends, the film is left tainted by unevenenss in many areas, with stylistic choices ranging from subtle to a bit too disconcertingly surreal, humor finding inconsistent and even fall-flat occasions, characterization finding messy moments and the pacing ranging from a bit hurried to excessive enough to make the final product overlong, yet not to where you're likely to find yourself waiting for this film to just hurry up and end already, for although the final product is flawed, it goes kept alive by the generally colorful stylistic concepts - brought to life by clever editing, a flawed yet often fitting soundtrack and handsome cinematography - and humor - which mostly hits and sometimes really rips - that go into creating thorough entertainment value, broken up by moments of powerful dramatic inspiration within Emir Kusturica's storytelling and the across-the-board charismatic performances that compliment the worthy value of the subject matter that goes into making "Arizona Dream" a rewarding experience worth having. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 25, 2011
    Axel: But what's the point of breathing if somebody already tells you the difference between an apple and a bicycle? If I bite a bicycle and ride an apple, then I'll know the difference. Arizona Dream is much like a dream as it jumps from scene to scene and we don't know what happened in between. It is a very odd movie; with increasingly weird scenes and sights appearing. With all that being said it is still very watchable and I found myself watching with interest to what would occur next. Johnny Depp stars in a fairly early role and that was the main reason I watched the movie. It's very original, but I felt that story never really came together as good as it could have.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2010
    Johnny Depp plays a fish-tagger who reluctantly moves to Arizona to help uncle Jerry Lewis run his car dealership and becomes romantically entangled with emotionally unstable older fox Faye Dunaway and suicidal stepdaughter Lilli Taylor. A meandering, whimsically surreal comedy with an indie/Euro sensibility that wants to say something important about Life but never really gets around to it; fortunately, there are some standout individual scenes from the top-notch cast, including a running NORTH BY NORTHWEST gag. Vincent Gallo steals his scenes as Depp's would-be actor buddy.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 30, 2008
    Maybe I'm just stupid...but I didn't get all...whats up with the flying fish? seriously...
    Charlotta L Super Reviewer

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