Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Essentials- "Fargo" (1996)

The Essentials- #39

Its no secret on this blog that I LOVE the Coen Brothers. They are quite possibly the best cinematic duo in American history, always creating a unique voice in Hollywood. I love that they can be downright horrific with one movie and completely slapstick funny in another movie. I feel that takes some real talent, talent I am not sure every artist has.

"Fargo" is an interesting Coen Brothers movie, because it brilliantly blends comedy and dark drama together in one movie. It is features a setup unlike any in other films made during this era. The film doesn't begin by introducing its principal hero, it begins in a bar in Fargo, North Dakota, circa 1987. We meet Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy in his career-defining performance.) meeting with two thugs (Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi). At first the thugs can't believe what they are being hired for, to kidnap Jerry's wife for ransom so that Jerry can get to his father-in-law's money. It seems weird, but Jerry is in a ton of financial trouble and he explains that if he asked for the money, he wouldn't get it. So he hires two thugs to set up a crime for $80,000, half for Jerry, half for the thugs. 

The crime goes well, until the thugs are pulled over by the cops, this leads to several murders. After the murders, the police take a closer look at the case, which leads the audience to meet Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). The rest of the film is about Marge cracking the case and Jerry getting into more and more trouble. The fun in the film is watching all of these Coen Brother regulars tear it up onscreen. The accents, the sets, the atmosphere is so intoxicating that the film feels more like a prolonged experience. The Coen Brothers were born in the high north of the United States, so they soaked up the culture of that region of our nation. The films authentic feel draws us into the film in a big way.

What I mean when I say that the Coen's really highlight the atmosphere is the "Minnesota Nice," there is a certain way people speak, act, and live in that region of the United States that is very different than anywhere else. I love that every character in "Fargo," major or minor, has certain ticks and mannerisms that separates them from everybody else we meet in the movie. There is so much detail in mere seconds of the film and its a marvel to behold. 

There are moments in "Fargo" that will make you laugh and there are moments that will silence you with shear intensity. There are also moments that will be downright gruesome. This is what it looks like when a group of filmmakers are at the top of their game. Every moment of this film feels right. This is all part of the reason why "Fargo" is hailed as an American classic.

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