The Coen Brothers knack for quirk and charm amidst heavy drama and viscious violence is extremely evident in this classic familiar-but-fresh crime thriller.
This will be the first of several catch-up posts that I put up over the next few weeks - including what looks to be a mega-epic post about batman - as well as many many short posts on films I watch in class. Time to knuckle down, I've got a lot of writing to do.
Fargo is a dark comedy/crime thriller about Jerry Lundegaard (William Macy), a used car salesman who has his wife kidnapped, in order that his father-in-law will pay a hefty ransom for her return. He plans to skim a chunk off the top to pay off his debts. What could possibly go wrong?
Basically, everything. Between Jerry and the two goons he hires, every stage of the plan is mucked up by poor judgement, bad timing, the intervention of others, or some other happenstance that leads to a string of murders, and a full-on police investigation into this web of incompetance and deceit.
The setting is Minneapolis, Dakota, in the winter time - allowing for a backdrop of endless highways cutting through vast fields of ice, and parking lots piled up with snow. This little-filmed corner of the United States is rendered beautifully under the direction of Joel and Ethan Coen. And like Insomnia used the endless sunlight in Alaska to reflect the main characters psychological trauma, here the bitter winter creates a sense of isolation and loneliness... yet infused in it a sense of beauty and hope. Depending on your perspective the environment could look either bleak or beautiful, and the film presents a smorgasboard of fascinating characters from whose perspective we view it.
That heart of this movie is named Margie (Frances McDormand), perhaps one of the most lovable heros in film. I'm sure a large part of her appeal is her accent - pronouncing 'yeah' as 'yaaa' etc. - but she shares that with every other character in the film. No, Margie is simply a pure spirit, despite her job as the local police cheif. She's pregnant, vulnerable, yet clearly the most capable of all the characters in the film. She is also apparently incorruptible, and motivated not by greed, or malice, but by the simple joy she finds in everyday life. Her monologue at the end of the film is subtle, simple, but powerful, especially on repeat viewings.
The acting in this film is great all around - I give special attention to Margie because she's my favourite character, but props too to William Macy as the hopless and confused Jerry, Carl (Steve Buscimi) as one of the more despicable characters in recent films, and Gaear (Peter Stormare) as one of the most fearsome.
I don't think I'll discuss spoilers for this film - just know before you see it that it is quite gruesome at times, especially towards the end. But don't let that stop you if you're a fan of good comedy or thrillers, because this excellant movie is a crazy ride, and well worth the experience.