165 - Fargo (1996)

A crime falls apart in spectacular fashion.

Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) has run out of money, but he has a plan to get some quickly. He plans to hire two guys to kidnap his wife so that her wealthy father pays a ransom and he splits the money 50/50 between himself and the kidnappers. His wife is released and no-one gets hurt.

However, when people start dying it is clear that the plan is spiralling out of control. It is up to the police work of the heavily pregnant Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to contain the situation before it's too late.
Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia

It is difficult to know whether to take Fargo seriously., such is the brilliance of the Coen brother's dark comedy. One moment I was sitting there shocked at how such a person could commit such a crime and the next I couldn't resist laughing at the lacklustre police work and the character accents ("oh yaaaaaaaar").

Either way, I did find that Fargo tickled me in some way, but this (luckily) didn't detract from Jerry's moronic plan which is obviously the centrepiece of the tongue in cheek thriller. William H. Macy rightly received an Oscar nod for his portrayal of the down-on-his-luck supporting actor - a typecast which has unfortunately come to define his career to date.

Despite Macy's heroics (which I feel carried the film along), Frances McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress. Admittedly her role is quite funny, especially as she bumbles through her work whilst looking like she could pop out a young'un at any moment of small shock, but the fact that she doesn't appear for the first half of the film makes it a wonder that the Academy recognised her role at all. She later went on to star in 3 more Empire 5-star films, placing her joint third in the list of actresses to appear in 5-star movies for the magazine.

The hostility of the scenery is the perfect metaphor for the character's cold desperations and helps to play out some of the most amusing acts (Steve Buscemi's "final" scene in the tainted snow is just brilliant). Without it many elements of the film wouldn't have been possible, but rather than nonchalantly telling the story around it, the Coen's embraced it, making the most of an environment rarely tackled outside of animation.

All in all then, Fargo is a brilliant black comedy with some hugely funny and very memorable scenes.