|Fig 1 - Fargo Poster|
The story revolves around family man and car dealership manager Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), who instigates the kidnapping of his own wife, the daughter of his wealthy employer Wade (Harve Presnell). Jerry does this in order to earn a cut of the ransom that will be bargained with Wade in exchange for her return. The rest of the ransom would go to the kidnappers, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), who unabashedly storm their way to a secluded cabin on a violent spree with Jerry's wife in the back seat. All the while, a pregnant officer named Marge (Frances McDormand) finds herself busy investigating the situation, leading to a host of 'chipper' confrontations that never prove too much for the determined mother-to-be...
The film won Best Original Screenplay at the 69th Academy Awards, along with a Best Actress award for Frances McDormand. Ever since, it has been praised as one of the Coen's greatest achievements in film-making, and even impressed Roger Ebert enough to deem it "one of the best films (he'd) ever seen" (Ebert, 1996).
|Fig 2 - Fargo - Roger Deakins doing it right|
William H. Macy gives a particularly great performance as Jerry whose intentions, though ultimately well-meaning, lead him to be one of the film's most despicable characters. Additionally, Frances McDormand absolutely deserved the acclaim she received as Marge Gunderson, who along with her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch), gives the film an inordinate amount of heart in her matriarchal role. Her pregnancy only enhances the affection we have for Marge, who exudes nothing but positivity and warmth in pursuit of such ruthless criminals. However if you don't find yourself utterly smitten with her happy-go-lucky approach, Steven Buscemi and Peter Stormare play off one another in an entirely opposing fashion which may be more to your liking.
Furthermore, Roger Deakins' spectacular cinematography captures the underlying isolation of the major characters with beautiful shots of the North Dakota landscapes. The untouched plains of snow are often punctuated by singular details and figures that greatly highlight the baron atmosphere and hopeless situations, giving Fargo a gorgeous look that manages to both romanticize and demonize the American North. The mid-90s aesthetic also reminded me a lot of David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990-91), which has a similarly bizarre fascination with food throughout.
Having thoroughly processed the film in my mind, it is undoubtedly one of the more 'easily digestible' Coen brothers movies. Thinking back on those that I favour, I can only truly recall great 'scenes' over the films in their entirety. That said, I think No Country for Old Men (2007) is still a personal favourite, but Fargo is so rich with humour and warmth in a way that No Country isn't. Whatever the case, Fargo is unlike any film I've seen before in terms of it's look, charm and unforgettable characters. A must-see for fans of the Coens.
Fig. 1 Fargo Poster (1996) From: Fargo - Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Fig. 2 Fargo Screenshot (1996) From: Fargo - Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen