Saturday, February 4, 2012

100 Movies - No. 37: Fargo

37. Fargo (1996)
Crime, Drama, Comedy, 98 minutes
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi

I once bought Fargo on DVD for a friend because it's one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, but she thought it was too violent and couldn't imagine why I had sent it. Some 10 years later, she watched it again and loved it. The original problem arose because she viewed it as a serious drama rather than a dark comedy. When that perception changed, so did her appreciation for the movie.

Make no mistake, Fargo is a dark comedy. You won't see that description on IMDB, but I defy you to watch this without laughing many times. It works so well because of Steve Buscemi. If you liked his role in Reservoir Dogs, and his philosophy on tipping, you'll like his work here. He's such a pitiable character that almost every expression on his face is amusing. The way he delivers the dialogue is amusing too.

There are four main characters in Fargo. One is Jerry Lundegaard (Macy), who is a car dealer. He desperately needs money for reasons which are never mentioned and so conceives a plan to kidnap his own wife. In order to achieve this, he recruits Carl Showater (Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare). Carl does all the talking, while Gaear is a man of action. The fourth main character is Marge Gunderson (McDormand), who plays a police chief. She's pregnant and acts pretty goofy, but she's extremely competent underneath. The second half of the movie focuses on her search for the kidnappers.

I don't want to give away too much for those who haven't seen Fargo, but you can read my full review by clicking here if you want to know some of my other thoughts.

Fargo is a masterpiece in many ways. It looks and feels authentic and portrays life in a small American town effectively. The acting is great throughout and McDormand's Oscar was fully deserved. The movie also picked up a Best Screenplay Oscar. It was beaten out in most of the other categories by The English Patient, but it has much better replay value. I watch it a couple of times every year.

If you like Fargo:

The Coen brothers like to include plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor in their movies. It's similar in some ways to that of Quentin Tarantino. I'm not reviewing every film by my favorite directors for the purposes of this list, so I'll content myself with suggesting another Coen brothers film here. I almost chose No Country for Old Men and both are in my all time top 10. If you like one, it's almost certain that you will like the other. Both have that blend of violence and dark humor and work because of the quality of the scripts.

Another movie which always comes to mind when I watch Fargo is In Bruges. The dark humor and moments of violence are present there too, but instead of Steve Buscemi you'll find Brendan Gleeson as the main comic relief.

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