The snow in Fargo wasn’t real. I’m just going to come out and say it. Of course, not all of it. But it was the hottest winter in Minnesota for a long time, so most of it was artificial. I’m sorry if I just crushed your dreams. But the truth must come out. Right now, I don’t know what to be believe. I mean, is there really a God? I’m really, really doubting it now. Biggest reason why there is no God? The snow in Fargo was fake! Good to get that out of my system.
This black comedy is based around a car dealer who hires henchmen to abduct his wife and therefore receive the ransom from his loaded father-in-law. It doesn’t work – for anyone – and a bloody trail is left behind for a pregnant police officer to investigate.
Looking at the image above, you’d probably think it was a dastardly, murderous, bloody, crime noir. Well, it does conform to some of the criteria – it’s certainly murderous, it’s no doubt bloody, and there’s a lot of crime.
But let’s not mince words here – Fargo is a comedic masterpiece. And that’s what they set off for at the start. The Coen brothers ability to elegantly glide between genres is incredible, but unfortunately means you can love Big Lebowski, but hate Barton Fink, or love No Country For Old Men and hate Hail, Caesar!. It could be a dark drama, or a dark comedy.
So, in a way, Fargo had tried to mix the two. It’s a black comedy, and let’s be honest, is there a better type? Even if you look at Better Call Saul; most people would firmly ground that in the drama section, but search deeper and you’ll find it’s very funny. Bob Odenkirk was a comedian till Breaking Bad. There was also a quote – I can’t remember who said it, so I’ll take it as my own – that really rings true for these sort of productions:
The best kind of comedy is the one that doesn’t make you laugh out loud.Over-The-Shoulder
Maybe it’s debatable. Perhaps you have a booming laugh at anything you find mildly amusing, but for me, it definitely applies for Fargo. You could argue this film was made at a time when a genre was really thriving: comedy-crime. Comedy-crime can be great, but most of the time… no. They’re not. I’m looking at you, Pain & Gain over there. The comedy outdoes the crime in most of these films, but in the 90s how many good ones were there?
You had Get Shorty, The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction, and Ocean’s 11 and Catch Me If You Can were made just after the turn of the decade. Fargo is another one on the list. It’s a masterpiece of the giggles.
How can, in such a mundane, eventless town, where everyone says “yah”, “aw geez” and “darn tootin'”, can such bloody things be going on, and so stupidly? That’s what makes this film funny. When people try to recreate the genre, they strap so tightly onto the incompetence of your Jerry Lundegaards (William H. Macy) – who is brilliant by the way – or Carl Showalters (Steve Buscemi), and Fargo is often misconstrued as doing the same. Of course, it’s a factor, and I can’t help but laugh when I see Gaear (Peter Stomare) trying to crunch Carl into a wood chipper. But it’s the fact that “yah” is said 200 times throughout the film, and so many of the scenes feel so pointless, and the characters so boring, that makes it excellent.
I know it sounds like a contradiction in terms – How can a boring film be good? – but it just works. Perfectly.
Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is also that for her role – perfect. The heavily pregnant, rather uninspiring but optimistic police officer from Fargo suits her so well. She actually only comes into the film from about minute 40, but is often the character that everyone remembers most, a little like John Doe. But she is absolutely nothing like John Doe. To be honest, the most shocking part of the film was probably when she pulled out a gun to go confront Gaear. Which is why this is certainly not a thriller.
The few mishap deaths are funny, not shocking. This feels like the perfect weekend film for a lazy Sunday. Very easy to watch, humourous without having to sit up to laugh and perfect to watch with the family – when they’re a little bit older, perhaps.
Anything with Steve Buscemi in is going to be excellent. I think that’s pretty undisputed. The chain is not broken with this particular event. Him and Danny De Vito – now that is a film I would watch. In fact, I did some research, and they were in a film together called Big Fish, which I have never seen before, and supposedly they both have small roles in it, so I probably won’t be tuning in.
Interestingly enough, a series version of the film was made, but I’m yet to watch it. It’s critically acclaimed, although I’ve heard mixed reviews. I’ll also give you a little warning that it’s got Martin Freeman in it for the first series. I think anything with Freeman in it should just have a little warning.
Fargo is strange. Like most Coen brother’s films. They go into many deep places of their imagination that many others wouldn’t dare to explore. Sometimes, it comes off a charm. Others… well the less said about them the better. Fargo – and there is no doubting this – happily claims a place in the weird and wonderful. Odd characters and an odd plot. And I think, at the end of the day, you’ll like this film all depending upon your definition of odd. Perhaps it will bore you to hell. Perhaps you’ll be laughing the next day at some of the characters antics. Perhaps you love the Coen brothers (I do). Perhaps you hate them. But, in all honesty, this feels like their perfect film.
Best character: Gaear Grimsrud. The silent, but very trigger happy, criminal. The number two to Carl is funny but also, at the same time, the closest to the most thrilling, dangerous character. He ends up getting arrested and going to the slammer.
Least favourite character: Jerry is excellent, but a slimly piece of work. We’ve all seen the man who has his wife kidnapped so he can get the ransom from his rich father-in-law, but Jerry is exceptional. Some people shouldn’t get involved in the crime world. You’re probably laughing, going, “they said Walter White shouldn’t go into the crime world”, but, seriously. Some people should not go into the crime world. Seriously.
Favourite scene: The chit chat scene. Doesn’t move forward the story in any way shape or form. But very funny, and continues the recurring joke as Steve Buscemi as a funny looking guy, something which is no use to police officers.
Best quote: “I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.” Don’t we all?
Fargo – 8 out of 10