Quick Daily Review #31: Fargo (1996)


Fargo (1996)

Directors: The Coen Brothers

I’ve never been to Minnesota but after watching Fargo, strange as it may seem I have a strong urge to move up there. It seems like they have just the right mix of Midwestern hospitality with a little bit of that northern accent so prominent in Canada and Alaska. Before Sarah Palin made it uncool to talk like a northern hick, Marge Gunderson made it seem like the most natural and sensible thing in the world with her string of “You betchas” that litter all of her sentences. Then of course there is the character played by William H. Macy, who does a fine job of affecting that accent as well. His bumbling desperate would be criminal buffoonery is the perfect contrast to Gunderson’s cozy professionalism.

One of my favorite character actors, Steve Buscemi plays a motor mouth kidnapper who is partnered up with the sinister looking and near mute eastern European killer (Peter Stormare) who will eventually stuff what’s left of Buscemi into a woodchipper. It is funny to watch Buscemi’s progress throughout Coen brothers movies as his characters continually die, and his remains get smaller and smaller in each successive movie, finally going whole hog and being cremated in the Big Lebowski, where he switched gears and went from the aforementioned motor mouth to a character who was perpetually silenced by the overbearing John Goodman character.

Fargo is an interesting movie in that it is essentially a film noir set in the least likely place you would expect to see a film noir. The community this movie takes place in is not the gritty streets of some nameless city filled with hard boiled detectives and thugs , but a friendly rural community in which everyone is chipper as a rule. The Coen Brothers love doing this sort of thing though. The aforementioned Big Lebowski is another example where they take the structure and part of the plot from Hawk’s “The Big Sleep” and replaced the hard boiled slick detectives with a mock up of their stoner friend played iconically by Jeff Bridges. The Coens were apparently very surprised by the success that Fargo met with critically. For them, this was a movie that they were just having fun with. If they were going to win an Oscar, they thought it would have been for their previous “more serious” mob movie “Miller’s Crossing” but while that is also a strong movie in their catalogue, Fargo is, in my opinion the most organic and natural feeling of all their films.

All of the characters are believable in both their menacing desperation, and in the case of Frances McDormand, their genuine kind and tender moments as well. The snow covered locations offer a great contrast to the dark story being told and make it very visually appealing to watch. The plot and tone of the movie reminded me of their debut feature “Blood Simple” which was another movie about good people doing horrible things in a desperate situation. While the Big Lebowski remains my favorite of their movies for reasons of sheer entertainment, I would not argue with anyone who said that Fargo is their best work overall.


About William McPherson (359 Articles)
Professional freelance writer, who also writes blogs, reviews, and assorted nonsense at

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