Joel and Ethan Coen, the Coen Brothers (a.k.a. the
Brothers Coen), have brought the world a handful of bizarre yet
funny movies, among them BLOOD SIMPLE and RAISING
ARIZONA, but none so bizarre or funny as FARGO. Cleverly
morbid and supposedly based on a true story, FARGO tells a
PULP FICTION-like story of crime gone wrong, when a car
salesman with monetary troubles (William H. Macy) hires two
criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife
and split the ransom money with him.
But things soon go wrong and people end up dead.
Macy has no idea how to cover his tracks, Buscemi and Stormare
don't get along and to top things off, pregnant police chief
Frances McDormand is doing a damn good job of investigating
the homicides. McDormand, like all the other actors in the film,
does great justice to her quirky character and the bizarre food
binges her pregnancy craves. She and the other characters talk
in a hilarious Canadian / Super Fans dialect that emphasizes
usage of the words "there" and "ya" as punctuation.
The dialect blends with the surroundings -- North Dakota
and Minnesota in the dead of winter, where shades of white and
gray are the only colors you see outside and everyone plods
around in oversized parkas. The snow itself plays an important
role in the movie, from the scene where Buscemi buries a briefcase
along the side of the road to the scene where McDormand examines
three dead bodies in the snow and nonchalantly recreates the crime
exactly as it took place.
Although FARGO has only enough plot in its 98 minutes
to have comprised one of Tarantino's three PULP FICTION
segments, it shares Quentin's love for dialogue. Aside from the
unique dialect and usage of phrases like "So you married ol' son-
of-a-Gunderson," the Coens drop in a few great scenes that don't
have anything to do with the plot, as when McDormand meets a
friend from high school who tries to seduce her even though she's
married and very pregnant or when Buscemi chews out a parking
lot attendant for charging him money even though he only drove
through the lot.
It all adds up to an incredibly surreal but entertaining
experience that is one of the few truly original movies of the year.
Nothing inspires originality like the absurdities of real life, although
I'm sure Joel and Ethan added some embellishments of their own to
make it an even more compelling story of crime and punishment,
for -- and this is the last comparison I'll be making to PULP
FICTION -- in the end justice is served to all the wrong doers
and McDormand, her work done, is able to crawl back into bed
with her husband, the same bed she dragged herself out of in the
middle of the night as the crimes began. FARGO is an intricate,
full-circle movie for people who enjoy doses of intelligence to
go with brutality.
Copyright © 1996 Andrew Hicks