FargoAFI Rank: #84
Year Released: 1996
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Actors: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
Fargo became an instant classic when it came out, because it provides a fresh, unusual scenario which draws you in. So many movies are set in the flashy locations of Miami or Los Angeles. Here we have a female, pregnant police chief in the wintry cold of Minnesota who gets drawn into a triple homicide. She's sharp, and quickly begins to unravel what is going on. Frances McDormand won an Oscar for her portrayal as she figures out that William H. Macy has planned a kidnapping of his wife in order to get his hands on the ransom money. Of course, as tends to happen in movies, the plans go quite wrong and soon there are dead bodies all over.
Certainly the plot itself is fun to watch, but even more delightful is the overall crafting, acting, and dialogue of this movie. The Coen brothers come from up north and you can see their love of their homelands in every scene. The frustration as characters try to chip away at sheets of ice that coat their car windshields. The resignation as they use brooms to sweep away snow before the next storm comes in. Those of us who live in snowy regions can relate to all of this.
It's funny that many reviewers focus on the accents of the characters as being odd. Every region of the US - and heck the world - has its own accent! We watch movies set in New York City and know the people there have an accent and lingo. We watch scenes in Alabama and accept their accent and dialogue. Why should it be any different hearing the normal accents and way of talking of those in Minnesota? It's not good, or bad, or anything else. It's just a normal part of life. We all have accents. It's what makes life fun!
It's fascinating to me that the role of women is ever evolving in films, but films overall still seem to be male-centered. Here we have a brilliant female main character who is smart, engaging, and complex. She is wonderful. And even so, she is pretty much the only woman in the entire film. The wife, who gets kidnapped, barely gets a few lines in before she's hauled off. There are two nameless prostitutes, and another nameless escort. Our real world is half female, but in movies it seems that worlds are made up of mostly men. And prostitutes :). And, I suppose, annoying wives who need to be kidnapped.
It's certainly worth mentioning that there are some quite violent scenes in the movie. Those who are squeamish about blood will have to look away a few times. But even those who normally avoid violent films should give this one a watch. The characters, scenes, and dialogue are fantastic, and there are scenes that will stay with you long after you've watched the movie.
Highly recommended, and well worth its #84 ranking on the AFI top 100 listing.
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