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Film Review: Fargo
In 1996, Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced, edited and directed Fargo, which stared Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare, Kristin Rudrud, Tony Denman, Steve Reevis, Steve Park, Larry Brandenburg and Lohn Carroll Lynch. Grossing $60.6 million at the Box Office, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Film Editing. It won the awards for Best Actress and Writing Original Screenplay as well as the BAFTA David Lean Award for Direction, the Satellite Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
In 1987 Minnesota, Jerry Lundegaard, a bankrupt car salesman, stages the kidnapping of his wife in order to cheat his wealthy father-in-law out of the ransom money. But things go wrong and Police Chief Marge begins to investigate a series of local homicides.
Fargo is quite a very well-made film where the Coen Brothers took a well thought message, telling its audience that life is so much more than money and pleasure can come from the small and simple things. For one, there’s Marge and how she seems to be continually content with everything, taking pleasure in doing simple small tasks for Norm like buying him some nightcrawlers. Or maybe Norm making her breakfast even though it’s very early in the morning. Actually their entire marriage is a good example. Take the last scene, where Marge and Norm are in bed and are legitimately happy for each other because of their successes; Marge’s capture of a murderer and Norm’s mallard appearing on a stamp. Contrast all of that with Carl, Gaear, and Jerry who are after nothing but money have a one-track mind for it and none of them seem legitimately happy or joyful at all throughout the film. Rather, they just keep getting into more and more problems until none of them have the money.
And that’s really what makes the characters so interesting. Marge is a great and competent detective but is also cheerful and friendly, seemingly unable to comprehend the evil that the other characters exhibit, seen in her monologue to Gaear. Then there’s Jerry, a greedy idiot who sets the plot in motion and can’t seem to think about anyone other than himself. In fact, his greed and lust for the green stuff blinds him to the effects the kidnapping will have on his son. Either that or he’s a complete sociopath who doesn’t care how will affect him. But that’s nothing to say of Gaear, who rarely speaks and is by far the most violent of all of them, which shows how far he’s willing to go for a little bit of cash: killing a cop, two innocent people, Jean, and his partner, who he decides to hide by tossing in a woodchipper. The film also shows that the only life he really respects is his own in how he killed Jean for the reason of that she started shrieking, even though there wouldn’t be anyone around to hear her.
The cinematography in this film is also very well done, with more than a few shots of nothing but the whiteness of snow that’s often interrupted by a lone figure, be it a car, a person or something. And even the shots where there are lots of cars, but only one moving around, there’s a huge feeling of loneliness. What the Coens seem to be doing with all the lonely white shots is either showing that there’s a lot of nothingness in Brainerd, making it so that appreciating the little things means so much more when there isn’t a whole lot to appreciate. But also it can seem so to show that an overwhelming sense of greed and lust for money is very isolationist. Not only for the person who wants the money, but for those around them because at every point in the film, every character is out in the middle of nothing by themselves.
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