It’s winter in a wilderness town of Fargo in Minnesota. Jerry Lundegaard (by William H. Macey) is a car dealer who’s got himself into some serious financial problems – but he’s got a foolproof plan to resolve them. He engages the “hardened” criminal Carl Showalter (by Steve Buscemi) and his questionable friends to carry out the plan. Some weird stuff has happened on the snow laden highway out of town … a car stopped, the police passed by and got mixed up in a shooting. The heavily pregnant and tenacious Police Chief Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand) is now investigating. During the her investigations, a kidnapping gets completely out of hand, a contract hit is bungled and an extortion scheme goes belly up … all in the space of a few days.
Sound weird and chaotic? Well, it is … such is the work of Joel and Ethan Coen.
This is one of the best Coen movies ever. The characters all play completely dead pan – it’s so weird and crazy that it’s funny – really funny. In some places you won’t believe what your eyes are seeing. To describe the gruesome twists of the plot would make anybody who laughts at it just seem macabre … but the Coen’s have a wonderful talent of making the uttlerly awful, just seem pathetic and laughable. At the start you are told that the movie is a “true story” … but a disclaimer at the end says “persons and events portrayed in this production are fictitious” … so you be the judge.
You might call it a dark comedy. The main thread of humour throughout is the culture and colour brought by the locals – their regional traits, their craziness through endurance of such bitter cold and their mannerisms (exaggerated for effect of course) … the Police Chief’s pet sayings … “Okey Dokey” … “Be there in a jiff” and “Yah” – and some of the characters are there just to provide more “weird”.
William H. Macy is just classic and superb as the desperate, incompetent and pathetic Jerry and Frances McDormand shines as the warm-hearted and earnest Marge Gunderson. The movie had seven Oscar nominations in 1996 and won six: Best Supporting Actor (William H. Macy), Best Director (Joel Coen), Best Film Editing (Coen Brothers) and Best Picture (Ethan Coen), Best Original Screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen) and Best Actress (Frances McDormand).
Another of my all time favourite movies.
(Made: 1996, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen)