Working at his father-in-law’s car dealership, Jerry (William H. Macy) has got into himself into a little financial fix. Typically, he concocts various schemes, but to no avail. When all his schemes fail, he has one last plan that is either do or bust. He hires two goons to kidnap his wife for ransom, to be paid by her rich father. Predictably, from the get go of this plan, things start going wrong. Supposedly nonviolent, it turns into an eventful blood affair. All these events catch the attention of the local police department and are now the Brainerd homicides, led by the determined and highly motivated Marge Gunderson (Francis McDormand) in her quest for justice.
Well, well well! The Coens know how to make a goddamn movie. At its core, this is a police crime drama. But the Coen Brothers constantly dart about this seriousness with irony, and sarcasm of British proportions. From the acting to the screenplay to the direction, Fargo is one more movie that defined the 1990s and a movie that helped redefine the American crime scene. I love this film most for its cinematography. Set in the Midwest, I’m a sucker for scenes that depict winter in all its beauty, regardless if I’m no fan of winter myself. Winter is ghastly to be in, but lovely to look at.
Whilst Britain has the West Country and Merseyside, America has the Midwest. They’re places where the accents sound so odd that it shocks me that they exist. The accents in Fargo are just plain strange. Now three seasons into the TV show, I am now used to it. But when I first watched the film, I was taken aback. “You’re darn tootin” they often say. And once you get used to this lingo, it’s wonderful, and I even began to like it. It maybe odd but it’s still audible which can’t often be said for the accents you find in rural South or Liverpool in the UK for example. But when you see Midwesterners running around all “funny lookin”, it’s often hard to take them seriously.
Along with HBO’s The Wire, Silence of the Lambs and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, both the film and television series of Fargo are pillars of the crime genre. It’s black comedy at the top of its game. We see an Oscar-nominated William H. Macy looking like a deer in the headlights hire two guys to kidnap his wife in order to free his father-in-law of his money. I don’t need to emphasise that his plan goes Pete Tong. Fargo is the Trainspotting of America. It’s a cult classic, and will continue to be so forever. It still has that niche audience. You will either love or hate this movie. It’s on many best films’ lists and deservedly so. it’s one of the best films of all time. You betcha your ass it is!
As are most black comedies, this film is sociopathic. I won’t beat around the bush. Some people will find them making light of murder and death very disturbing. There’s one scene with the woodchipper that is very comical to watch, or very horrifying. Like film as an artform, comedy is subjective. What is funny to one person is not to another, and that woodchipper incident is either going to make you bust a gut or you it will give you issues. There is no in between. The dramatic score entwined with the startled look on the operator’s face linked in with the sport-socked foot poking out of the top, it’s dark comedy. You will either like it or you won’t. Plain and simple.
The thing about the Coen Brothers is that they are very hit and miss. Fargo is one of the ones that hits, especially with that cast. What is it with 90s movies and dramatic facial expressions? Both Macy and McDormand have a collage of facial expressions in this flick, as does Steve Buscemi. Buscemi is hysterical, and it’s probably my favourite Buscemi performance behind Boardwalk Empire. McDormand as Marge is great, as is her husband (John Lynch). Directors like Tarantino, The Coens, Wheatley Ritchie, Edgar Wright and all those niche directors have their own style. And their styles are an acquired taste. It just so happens I have enjoyed eighty percent of their films.
To put it simply, Fargo is a cult classic and one of the best pictures of all time. It’s a cult film, and will always be a cult film. The cast is great and the photography is excellent, especially in those wide landscape shots. If you haven’t watched it, watch it. If you have watched it, rewatch it.