Fargo is by far the best film of 1996
"There is one movie that takes the critics by storm every year. In 1994, it was Pulp Fiction. In 1995, it was Get Shorty. In 1996, that movie was Fargo." This statement is on the back of the box of Fargo, which states that it is "a thriller by Joel Coen." Sure, it is a thriller (well, it has its moments), but it's mostly a comedy, and many people will probably dislike this movie because they thought it would be a thriller. Be forewarned: This movie is a mix of dry humor, extreme violence, and language. Don't be expecting a thriller, or you will be disappointed.
Now, if you watch it expecting a comedy, hopefully you will enjoy this movie. In order to understand this movie, you must understand how the Coen brothers work. These are the same guys that brought us Raising Arizona and The Hudsucker Proxy, and if you enjoyed those movies, which I did, you should love Fargo, by far their best work yet. Many of my friends actually love the Coen brothers but did not like Fargo. I assume they either didn't understand the humor in the movie, or they just are really stupid. I'm pretty sure it's the latter, because the humor isn't that hard to understand. The actors overemphasize their accents ("Oh, yah!"), and the moments when no one is talking and they just sit there and look at each other, are some of the funniest moments in the movie.
But that's not what works the best. In the best scene of the entire movie, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand, from Raising Arizona) is interrogating Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) at his work. Gunderson is calm, and cool, and Lundegaard is nervous and sweaty. Gunderson asks him sensible questions, and Lundegaard answers them with slurred speech and stuttering stupidity. The reason that it's so good is, as stated by Roger Ebert, it's at the control of it's actors. There are many scenes in which many people might wonder, "What does that have to do with the plot?" I can't really answer that, but those scenes that have nothing to do with the plot, seem so well in place that we love them anyways.
To give away the plot would almost be a sin, but I will tell you what it pretty much tells you on the box. Lundegaard is desparate for money and so hires two lowlife crooks (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), one is quick-tongued and nervous, and the other is a slug who doesn't say anything when he doesn't need to, to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrud). Luckily, a deal goes through for Lundegaard and he doesn't need the crooks to kidnap her anymore. However, he isn't able to get ahold of them, which is the beginning of a run of mishaps. The way that these unexpected events unfold is ingenious and takes the audience by shock. Fargo is based on a true story which probably was slightly written with extra scenes added for humor. Much of the humor actually comes from their dialect, which sounds almost Scandanavian. In fact, when I think about the events that occured, it saddens me to think that this really happened. But at the same time, I can't help laughing at the unfortunate predicaments that they get themselves into.
As I said before, the movie is pretty much completely at the control of its actors. Macy is terrific as the nervous, stuttering, and confused car salesman as he tries to think his way out of situations that have gone awry. I even felt sorry for the guy because I could sense his pain and mental anguish as he tried to lie his way out of interrogations. Buscemi is wonderful as Showalter, the nervous crook. He has a quick temper and has boring sex for fun. In one of the funniest scenes, an "escort" is in bed with Buscemi, and she isn't even having fun, while Buscemi seems to be enjoying himself. It's very funny. Stormare may seem dumb and slow, but when it comes to the job, he gets it done. He creates the perfect contrast to Buscemi. Rudrud is hilarious as the wife of Macy, even though she has a small part. Harve Presnell is very good as the father of Rudrud who has a multi-million dollar business.
The real gem of the movie is McDormand, who has to have a lock on an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. I don't think I have ever seen a performance by a female better than this one all year, in fact. Courtney Love comes close (from The People vs. Larry Flynt) as does Madonna, but McDormand deserves it as she provides one of the most colorful characters in movie history. Her character is very smart, as she waddles through the crime scene, reconstructing everything as it happened--correctly. She may be pregnant, but that doesn't affect her ability to think, and deduce. I'm pretty sure she got the part because her husband is the director, Joel Coen, but I can't think of any actresses who could have done a better job. I sure hope McDormand gets the Oscar.
Fargo is rated R for plenty of violence and gore, sex, nudity, and lots of language. Joel Coen, and his brother, Ethan, who produced and co-wrote, have come out with their best movie ever. I really hope that this movie wins the Best Picture, because it certainly deserves it. Besides, I would love to laugh at all my friends who thought the movie was stupid. Now, that would be fun.
Note: This movie was NOT based on a true story as stated by the opening scene. Hey, claiming that a fictional film really occured... isn't that the truest form of fiction?
**** out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie