Movie Review: Fargo

fargo-1996

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi

Verdict: Really good

Oh yaaaah, YAAAAAH – It’s Fargo

Breakout film for Golden Llama winners The Coen Brothers, Fargo won them their first Oscar, an Oscar for Joel’s wife Frances McDormand, (Mississippi Burning, Almost Famous), (although I think The Golden Llama is far more prestigious), Fargo has spawned a 2 series running spin off show, a made-for-television sequel starring Edie Falco, (no, me neither), and some of the most memerable scenes, characters, and accents in recent film history. 

Fargo follows pergant police cheif Marge Gunderson on her quest to solve a triple murder and the bungling criminals who perpetrate such a crime. What starts out as a simple hostage situation goes horribly south in this tale of blood in the snow. 

I’m gonna level with you – I’ve never quite fallen in with Fargo. I went in knowing it was a black comedy and found myself not laughing very much, it’s not as if I didn’t like it, I just found myself a bit disapointed. I think Rotten Tomatoes had it right, “Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, Fargo delivers an original crime story”. Going into Fargo I think it’s important to remember that it is first and formost a cime story that’s actually played pretty straight, it just happens to be really funny. Steven Buschemi, (Reservoir Dogs, Monsters, Inc.Boardwalk Empire), gets it. He plays it really straight but all the time there’s this underlying level of irony to his entire performance that will effect you but you have to work quite hard to actually notice. At least with The Big Lebowski or Hail, Caesar! you know where you stand, although there are other elements to them that are just as important to understanding entirely what the movies are trying to do, they are first and formost comedic efforts. I mean just look at that ‘If only it were so simple’ scene from Hail, Caesar!, or the ‘look at that parking lot’ scene if we’re there from A Serious Man but we’re really getting off topic I feel. It’s important I think that the Coen Brothers started off working with Sam Raimi, because The Evil Dead, maybe better Evil Dead II, is a horror film that just happens to be funny. All of the Coen’s work mixes genre pastiche with comedy and I think it’s important that I’ve been so impressed by works like Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country for Old Men, and Inside Llewyn Davis in the mean time because that’s in the same vein as Fargo of a movie where the comedy is incedental, and blossoms like a bullet wound at the most unexpected moments. 

So what bought me to this realisation? What finally enabled me to get Fargo? I think it was probably that between now and the last time I watched it I fell in love with the TV show. The first series of which tonally is almost identical. Billy Bob Thornton, (Armageddon, Princess Mononoke, Bad Santa), in Fargo TV is extraordinarily reminiscent of Peter Stormare’s, (Until Dawn, The Big Lebowski) bleach blonde phychopath from the original, who is just extraordinary, deadpan, really threatening, maybe the second best performance in the movie next to Frances McDormand’s iconic turn as Marge. The TV show cracked the nut for me. I’m not going to pretend Fargo is my favourite Coen brothers work although it’s probably their most celebrated. In fact, it does have a really troubling attitude to non-caucasians which thinking about it you could actually find in a lot of the Coen’s work but they do get a caucasian to play the literal devil in Barton Fink so I’m not sure how warranted that is. Despite this though, Fargo is a funny, dark, and occasionally, suprisingly brooding and exciting work that has a subtle but strong message that it graduly pokes to you like a stack of chips at a betting table before you get it at the end. 

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