Fargo (1996)

Directed and written by Joel and Ethan Coen
(number 206)

Coen Brothers movies really make me want to play Fiasco like hard out. And it makes me think of awesome Fiasco games I’ve played in the past.

Fargo, to me, is slow to get started. I like it a lot more once Frances McDormand’s character comes on the scene. Although I do love the Minnesota accents all the actors are putting on, and it is a fantastic cast – especially William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi getting their big breaks, which if it didn’t exactly put them on the A list, this movie put them into people’s heads. Well, maybe just my head, they’d both been working before this obviously.

It also sort of reminds me of The Guard but told from the other direction. Certainly the Guard couldn’t have been made without this one first.

There are a lot of beautiful, iconic stills in this film. The man in the red parka dead in the snow with the turned car in the foreground. The birds eye view of Jerry’s car in the snowy carpark with black square planters. Beautiful thought put into the framing and style of some of the shots. There’s also a lot of thought given to the setting, the kitschy interiors and bleak exteriors. Beautiful.

The relationship between Marge and Norm Gunderson is really lovely. I find it hard to think of many examples of truly devoted married couples in media, ones where their relationship is never in question but they just always are secure in their relationship while other stuff happens. It’s one of the reasons I love the book Dracula so much.

The plot of this film is a huge spiral of things getting worse, which is par for the course for the Coens. I find it very hard to believe that as it claims, it’s based on real events though.

The absolute charm of this movie is the incidental characters. There’s so much politeness and warm small talk in this fascinating Minnesota accent. Contrast with seeing Steve Buscemi, covered with blood and counting money in a car and it’s really striking. Bad things can happen even in nice towns, but the contrast does make the villainous characters into caricatures of villains.

Do I need to talk about the woodchipper scene? It’s the blackest of black comedy. Leading to such imitators as Tucker and Dale vs evil and making me vaguely fear woodchippers even though I’ve never seen one in real life. Also makes me want to see In China They Eat Dogs again, because that’s my favouritest, blackest comedy.

Does it make me love the people? Yes. Marge Gunderson for lyfe. She’s a magical character of magic, she’s smart, she’s excellent at her job, she educates her partner without being condescending and she tells it like it is. I adore her. If only there were more characters in this film which were women, but the other characters are pretty great too. In some scenes you feel sorry for Jerry and in some you just hate him. It’s very realistic character writing I feel.

Bechdel test: Marge has a brilliant talk with the two hookers, but they are credited as hooker 1 and 2, and they talk about the men – the suspects in the case, so that’s a fail.

She talks to Valerie over the phone but… sadly it’s mostly about Scotty, so that’s a fail too. Pretty much the classic – only include other women besides the lead if they’re there to talk about men 😦

Best line:
Marge: And I’ll tell you what, from his footprint he looks like a big fella… [bends over]
Lou: See somethin’ down there, Chief?
Marge: No, I just think I’m gonna barf.
Lou: Geez. You okay there, Margie?
Marge: Yah, I’m fine. [stands up straight] It’s just morning sickness. Well, that passed.
Lou: Oh yah?
Marge: Yah, now I’m hungry again.
Lou: You eat breakfast yet, Margie?
Marge: Oh yah. Norm made some eggs.

State of Mind: This film is good and smart and fun and I enjoy it a lot. It’s held up well over the years, aided I’m sure by setting it in a specific year which was already dated when the film came out. Strong performances, strong direction, strong script. Two thumbs up, will definitely watch again.

Watched movie count


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