#49 Fargo

(1996, Coen Brothers)

“There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Dontcha know that?”

Last time, I complained about having to write reviews for comedies. Technically, this is another one, but things are a bit different here. Fargo is a black comedy based around a crime thriller, so really I should be able to say more about it than just a straight comedy, right? Ya, you betcha.

Fargo is about Jerry (William H. Macy), a down on his luck car salesman who makes a deal with two crooks (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) for them to kidnap his wife. She has a rich father, and he wants some money from him, and the ransom money from a fake kidnapping seems like the best way to go. However, the crooks aren’t that brilliant, and soon people start dying, sending the whole scheme into a downward spiral. Meanwhile, heavily pregnant police sheriff Marge (Frances McDormand) is on the hunt for the crooks, throwing another spanner into the works.

Now, this is usually held up as the key example of what a Coen Brothers movie should be like (unlike the last Coen Brothers movie we looked at), and it is definitely a sign of the directors on the top of their game. This is a fantastic movie, and I have very little to criticise.

The Coens have blended the worlds of thriller and comedy seamlessly, to the point where one genre couldn’t exist here without the other. While the thriller elements are suitably bleak and very dark, the story wouldn’t work without the comedic elements because it’s so absurd. It’s a silly crime caper, but the deaths are starkly serious. There’s also a huge contrast between the violent crime committed and the incredibly laidback attitude presented by Marge and her officers, cheerfully greeting each other in their Minnesotan accents and eating donuts while talking about murder.

Acting-wise, the movie is perfect. William H. Macy is brilliantly hapless without being overdone. Peter Stormare is creepy as hell as the mindless psychopath of the duo, while Steve Buscemi is typically weaselly as the “funny-looking” one (a brilliant running gag, which makes me think no one but Buscemi was in line for the part). But it’s Frances McDormand who excels above all. She plays Marge as a perfect comedy character throughout the movie, amusing to watch but not over-the-top, but then gets an emotional moment during the climax of the movie, which really rounds out her performance significantly. Even more impressively, she manages to keep the distinctive accent going in the process, which is probably what won her an Oscar.

Are there flaws? I looked, but I struggled to find any. Well, there was a little awkward subplot involving an old friend of Marge’s who is slightly obsessed with her that seems to go nowhere, but it rarely gets in the way, and the only major scene dedicated to it is funny enough to prevent derailing the entire movie.

What about the violence? Is it excessive and could that be viewed as a negative? Well, no, it’s not excessive. It’s brutal at times, such as when Stormare shoots a police trooper in the head and blood splatters all over Buscemi, but these moments are handled well. Rather than squirting fake blood all over the screen constantly, the few moments where this happen are effective at making us realise how badly things are going out of control. Sure, it’ll still put some more sensitive people off, but it’s far from gratuitous. Even the notorious twist in the climax isn’t as gory as you’d expect, even if there is a foot in a wood chipper.

As should be obvious, I love Fargo. A thoroughly enjoyable crime caper, and everyone needs to watch it. RIGHT NOW.

Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell & Peter Stormare
Written by Joel & Ethan Coen
Produced by Ethan Coen
Music score by Carter Burwell
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Edited by Roderick Jaynes

Favourite Scene: Marge investigates the first scene of multiple murders, and every moment is brilliant, from the laidback way she and her officer discuss the bodies to the random bout of morning sickness she suffers during the investigation.
Scene That Bugged Me: Marge meets her old friend Mike. This is a subplot that doesn’t really add much to the movie at all. Why, Coens? I almost said this movie was perfect!

Watch it if: You have any real interest in cinema whatsoever
Avoid it if: Those Minnesotan accents grate on you a little

Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 23 January 2012

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in 1990s, Comedy, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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