Fargo (1996)

In the remarkably rich and furiously funny FARGO, brothers Joel and 
Ethan Coen have returned to their roots, both thematically and 
geographically.  The "brats," as they are called by some, have 
effectively remade their first film, BLOOD SIMPLE, as a Midwestern 
murder mystery with a cutting comedic edge.  (Think of a snowy stew 
of darkness and deadpan-- BLOOD SIMPLE mixed with a little RAISING 
ARIZONA.)  More importantly-- more hilariously-- the Twin Cities-
born brothers have concocted their first loving celebration of all 
things Minnesota.

William H. Macy (last seen in what I call MR. HOLLAND'S ANUS) stars 
as a scheming Minneapolis car salesman (and putz), whose idea for 
raising cash involves kidnapping his wife to get the ransom from 
her rich father.  Things quickly go wrong for everyone involved, 
including two "hired hands" from Fargo (Steve Buscemi and Peter 
Stormare).  Three murders, two hookers, and one jump-start later, 
the very-pregnant, very-polite Brainerd (MN) Chief of Police Marge 
Gunderson (Joel's wife, Frances McDormand) steps into the picture.  
Or, rather, waddles.

FARGO is the least-stylized and, probably, most-mature Coen film to 
date.  The oft-criticized brothers have, finally, achieved a 
balance between their love of eccentricity and their audience's 
base need for feeling.  Simply, they've made a very quirky (read: 
very Coen) film with a heart.  Here are characters with real, 
negotiable emotions-- unlike the past cartoon creations that have 
been all too common in the Coen universe.  (THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, 
for example, is both a visual tour de force and an emotional black 
hole.  Jennifer Jason Leigh's character-- the eventual force of 
good in the story-- never makes an emotional impact.  She just 
talks fast.)

As we're in very SIMPLE territory, expect plenty of grisly details 
and sadistic flourishes.  (A couple of tree-clearing tools are used 
to particularly fine effect.  Nods to Paul Bunyan?)  The laughs are 
there, too.  FARGO is recorded in sing-song, Scandinavian stereo, 
with dialects and dialogue that you just don't hear south of Lake 
Michigan. (Yes, they really *do* talk like that.  Yup, you betcha.)  
Don't expect an easy explanation for it all, tho.  FARGO is more 
than a little intentionally obscure.  For example, we don't what to 
make of a hotel encounter between Marge and an old schoolmate.  Is 
it a comment on her perpetual politeness?  A deduction about her 
powers of reasoning?  For all we know, the moment exists solely to 
hear an Asian-American who also talks with that wonderful accent. 

Grade: A
Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros 

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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