Tuesday 30 June 2015

Review: Fargo

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Fargo Poster

Fargo (1996)
Cert: 18 / 93 mins / Dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

The Coen Brothers' frostbitten 1996 classic is another movie I'd tried previously, but given up on in short-order when I wasn't feeling its groove. In fact, it was an aborted combination of this and Lebowski which put me off the Coens until Llewyn Davis gave me a better insight into how their minds work (although I'm still not fully fluent in their cinematic language, admittedly). Now, I enjoyed Fargo, but I can't say I absolutely loved it, and I think I liked its eccentricities more than the film itself. That's not an unusual state of affairs in itself, but it's not the fire in which all-time favourites are forged.

What's odd about the film is that it's full of really strong character-performances, but none of them feel like leads, exactly. Frances McDormand and William H Macy fill their roles, as the thorough but happy-go-lucky cop Marge Gunderson and world-weary car salesman Jerry Lundegaard respectively, with the ticks, nuances and foibles that would usually be reserved for secondary characters to steal scenes they're in. But the film's primary cast seem oddly understated considering the story revolves around them. Coming close behind is the ever-magnificent Steve Buscemi as small-town crook Carl Showalter, in a performance which you'd swear blind was a sort of continuity-prequel of his role as Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs*1.

Then as it turns out, the film's narrative is in a similar mire; Fargo is a ransom-movie where the kidnap-plot almost seems to take a back seat, and where characters are killed off flippantly, yet the causal gunshots are robbed of any real impact in the sound-mix. Gunderson's ongoing investigation into the spiralling murder-spree is so linear that you're thinking "…is there going to be some massive, clever twist here?". But no, Fargo is a film about script and characterisation, and in that regard, it is utterly fantastic. I just have this nagging feeling that with a more dynamic story I wouldn't have been able to ignore the movie for as long as I did…

Have you really never seen this before?

So are you glad you've finally have?

And would you recommend it, now?
Yes, for a Sunday afternoon on the sofa.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There ain't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Fargo stars Steve Buscemi, who also appeared in 2005's The Island along with Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor..

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Obviously it's not an actual prequel as Showalter ends up in pretty much the same place (if more pieces) as Mr. Pink, but if it weren't for that detail then it might have been a nice link to have suggested. That's kind of a spoiler, isn't it? Fuck it, this film's from 1996, you've had your chance to watch it before now. Especially if you were then going to read a review of it after all these years. No, you shut up.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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