Fargo (1996)

I'm working on something —you'll see what it is next month— which requires me to rewatch many films I haven't seen in ages because watching a new film every day doesn't leave a lot of room for rewatches, and the Coen Brothers Fargo was the first on the list that I was yet to review. 

The story follows Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a sales manager at a car dealership who needs his father-in-law's (Harve Presnell) money to get out of his financial troubles. He comes up with a plan to hire someone to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrüd) and demand ransom from her wealthy father, but things don't go according to plan, soon three people are dead and police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) starts investigating.

If you have never seen Fargo —I have absolutely no idea what you're doing with your life if you haven't though—, there essentially are two stories, one about the kidnap, one about the murder investigation. Two simple, straightforward and yet compelling and clever stories that eventually meet to make one of the best crime stories ever written as everything happens for a reason and the final outcome is the product of a working mind, not a series of lucky guesses nor the "good guys always win" cliché.

The characters too are wonderfully written. They are original, memorable characters; there's something likeable about each one of them, Jerry being the only exception, and you care about them, even about the kidnappers. Most of all, they are complex, well-rounded characters.

Jerry is a fool who can't handle anything, specifically responsibility, and he's probably the worst criminal cinema has ever seen. He is a compulsive liar, someone so greedy who is willing to have his wife kidnapped to extort money from his rich father-in-law, someone who doesn't think twice before abandoning his son to save his own life. He is an ignorant, vile man with no moral compass. And William H. Macy is perfect as the pathetic car salesman.

Gramercy Pictures
Marge is easily the best character as well as one of the greatest characters in film history. She is a fleshed-out human being with emotions and a truly golden heart. She is so sweet, likeable and optimistic. She is a smart, strong woman who proves you can have it all, that you can be a woman and still have a professional life as well as a personal life, and the relationship with her loving, supportive husband —according to the backstory McDormand and Lynch created, they met in the police force and when they got married and had to chose which one had to quit, Marge stayed because she was the better officer, as opposed to her quitting because she is the wife— is one of the most heartwarming in cinema. There's a subplot at some point involving a high school classmate; some people will argue that it's utterly pointless and adds nothing to the film, but it's not true as it further develops Marge as it shows that she cares about everyone, even about people she barely knows. Frances McDormand rightfully won an Oscar as she gives a charming, sensational performance as the pregnant police chief, able to capture the strength and good manners as well as the naïveté of small town folks.

The supporting cast is also a delight. Steve Buscemi is fantastic as Carl Showalter, a fast-talking criminal, and steals every scene he is in. Peter Stormare is brilliant as Gaear Grimsrud, the quiet, dumb-looking criminal. Harve Presnell gives a memorable performance as Jerry's cruel and determined father-in-law. John Carroll Lynch is perfect as Marge's great husband, Norm.

In addition, Fargo is filled with quirky dialogue, dark humour just when needed to lighten up a bit the tone of the film, and laugh-out-loud hilarious one-liners. Roger Deakins's cinematography is superb, and the score is beautifully haunting.


  1. I will be interested to find out what you are up to:). I really need to revisit this great film. I enjoyed everything about it...even the wood chipper scene which was quite funny actually.

  2. When I first saw this, I didn't like it but re-watching it again years later did wonders because I think it's great now. I can't wait to see what you have planned

  3. Yes to Fargo. No arguments from me. Curious what you have up your sleeve.