Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Fargo; crime drama, USA, 1996; D: Joel Coen, S: William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, Kristin Rudrüd
Car salesman Jerry Lundengaard hires two psychopaths, Carl and Gaear, to kidnap his own wife Jean in order to get the ransom money from his father-in-law and rich boss, Wade. But the plan misfires right after the kidnapping, when Carl and Gaear kill three eyewitnesses on the snowy road and a pregnant police chief, Marge, is brought on the case. She investigates and slowly starts figuring what happened. Carl gets the money, but is killed by Gaear, who on the other hand is arrested by Marge. Jerry is later arrested somewhere in a motel.
One of my less favorite 'Greatest movies of all time', once an excellent crime film, "Fargo" is today just an interesting achievement that was undermined with time by its inappropriately overstated bizarreness and uneven mood. The strange story by the Coen brothers revolving around kidnapping and greed in idyllic surroundings of snowy landscapes and stylish shot compositions, is comprised out of two segments—the one revolving around the two kidnappers and the other around the pregnant police chief Marge (brilliant Frances McDormand). The only problem, though, is that the first one quickly oozes off into nothing, becoming sloppy, weak and for Coens unusually pretentious, while the second one is excellent, thus leaving a strange taste as a whole. The first segment starts off great, especially thanks to some humorous moments, like when Jerry comes too late in the bar where Carl tells him: "We've been sitting here an hour. He peed three times already!" or when Gaear says "no" during the long ride in a car and Carl tells him it's the "first thing he ever said in the last 4 hours". But, after the kidnapping, it seems Carl and Gaear have been reduced to completely useless side characters who don't do anything, thus it's odd why the camera insists wasting the movie's time on them by constantly returning to their insipidness. Their sadistic nature (such as when they laugh at the kidnapped woman, covered over a blanket, stumbling blindly in the yard) is misguided for the movie. Jerry is for some reason only treated as a dumb caricature and is just there to be a scapegoat the whole world takes out on, which makes the film almost negatively bleak, as opposed to the Coens' other crime film, the perfectly balanced "Blood Simple". One 4 minute subplot (the Mike Yanagita sequence) even plays no role in the storyline at all, and only seems as if it was shoehorned for no reason. "Fargo" would have been better if it was presented only from Marge's perspective, who is an irresistibly shrill character, obvious in the scene where she meets Gaear at the loud wood chipper and points so cute at her police badge on her hat.