Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Essentials- "Fargo" (1996)

The Essentials- #56

Fargo

Over the weekend, I watched the first episode of FX’s new series, “Fargo.” I was very curious about it, because the 1996 movie “Fargo,” is a classic in my mind. How could a show that follows some of the same conventions even hold a candle to the original film? Well, that conversation is for a different time and place, and I’ll definitely take a look at the first few episodes on my blog here in the upcoming days. Right now, I would just like to focus on the 1996 movie.

The Coen Brothers really struck a high watermark with “Fargo.” This is a movie unlike any other you will ever see. But at the same time, it feels like a typical Coen Brothers movie. I find it very interesting they could create something familiar and original with one film. Alas, the Coen Brothers are American treasures, I should not be surprised by what they can and cannot achieve anymore. “Fargo” is one of the Brothers’ best visions, a near-perfect blend of dark comedy and dark human nature. It has one of the very best casts the brothers have ever assembled, and each actor throws down in a way you will not find imaginable. The score by Carter Burwell is a haunting masterpiece that elevates the movie we see. There is a reason why this is one is regarded as one of the Coen’s best; they both make it look so effortless.

The opens with a title-card saying that the story we are about to witness is a true story. The real story took place in 1987 and the names of the characters in the movie have been changed for the respect of the dead. Everything else we are about to see happens exactly as it did in real life. Then we see a car drive into a bar parking lot. We meet Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) meeting with two criminals Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare). It seems Lundegaard is recruiting these two criminals to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrud) so that her rich father (Harve Presnell) will pay the ransom, half of the money going to the criminals, the other half going to Lundegaard. The criminals are baffled by the proposal, but they go ahead and agree.
The kidnapping goes less than well. Three people, including a police officer, are gunned down by Gaear in order to get Lundegaard’s wife to their secret hideout. In the morning after the killings, we learn that Officer Margie (Frances McDormand) is hot on the case to find the shooters. We also learn why Lundegaard desperately needs the money, his life is in shambles and he could use some greenbacks. But the bodies pile up, the criminal duo demand more money, making Lundegaard more on edge.

First of all, like I said before, the cast is perfect. I love that each actor captures the “Minnesota Nice” persona down to a tee. If you did not know better, you’d be hard-pressed not to think that the entire cast came from the Minnesota area. The work done by McDormand, Buscemi and Stormare is top-notch acting, some of the very best of their careers. I love the chemistry between Buscemi and Stormare and the oddly funny scenarios they constantly find themselves in. The real show-stealer is William H. Macy. His persona is spot-on, he’s the perfect blend of naïve and quirky. Macy really chews up everything he is asked to do and it’s a marvel to watch.

I love that the movie is strikingly funny as well as striking to watch. There are several gruesome moments in the movie, but this is a crime film first, and comedy is an added bonus. The genre I feel the Coen’s do best in is the crime genre. They are able to capture shocking grit and furious scenes of violence. “Fargo” is an example of all their best efforts captured in one film. It is never easy to blend comedy into a dark crime movie, but the Coen’s done it with natural ease and should be credited for it.


“Fargo” may feel like a cold cup of coffee, but it is well worth the trip up North. Like I said above, I will definitely provide feedback on the show on FX in the near future, so look out for that!   

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