tek's rating: ½

Fargo (R)
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This came out in 1996. I must have seen it on TV sometime, but I don't recall when; could have been anywhere from the mid 90s to the early 2000s. I also don't remember quite what I thought of it, at the time. I knew it had been very well-received by critics, but I'm sure my own reaction was somewhat less enthusiastic. I mean, I probably thought it was okay, but not really great. And now that I've seen it again on DVD, in 2019, I'd say I probably appreciate it slightly more than I did the first time I saw it, but I'm still not super enthusiastic about it. Anyway, it's considered a black comedy, but I can't say I found it funny enough to categorize it as such. I suppose if I wasn't putting my review under "crime films," I might call it a serio-comedy, but I'd be more likely to go with "quirky," or even "film noir." I wouldn't want to call it a straight-up "drama," though I'd probably be more likely to call it that than a comedy. Most of the humor comes from the exaggeration of Minnesota nice accents, mannerisms, and such. And in particular, the contrast between that niceness (which I'd say gives the appearance of a sort of naivete or "simpleness"), and the more serious, criminal aspects of the film. Of course, some of the humor also comes from the less than competent nature of at least one of the criminals, and the way their plans go awry. But on the whole, what I found myself liking most about the film this time around was seeing that people who one might to be "simple" because of the way they speak or behave, and therefore out of their depth in anything as serious as this movie, are actually no different, or no less competent, than characters you might see in any other, more metropolitan setting, such as New York City. Specifically, I refer to the character of Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand, who received much well-deserved praise for her work in this movie).

I should mention that the film opens with text that claims the story is based on real events, but that text is a lie. Anyway, it's set in 1987, and it begins in Fargo, North Dakota. A car salesman from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), has gone there to meet two guys, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), who he hires to kidnap his wife, Jean. Jerry has some major money problems, which he doesn't want his family to know about, so he's counting on his wealthy father-in-law, Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell, whom I know best from The Pretender), to pay a hefty ransom for Jean, which Jerry would split with the two criminals. Things do not go smoothly at all, and after Jean is kidnapped... people end up being killed, near the town of Brainerd, Minnesota. So that is investigated by the local sheriff, Marge Gunderson (who is seven months pregnant, at the time). And I don't think it's too spoilery to say that she solves the whole case fairly efficiently. But in the meantime, lots more bad stuff happens between various other characters, mainly Jerry, Wade, Carl, and Gaear.

And that's all I want to say, really. It's not a bad story, and Marge is a great character. But otherwise, I don't have any strong feelings about the movie, nor find it all that memorable.

But I should also say that the film inspired a TV series that began in 2014, but I haven't had the chance to see it. I do hope to watch it someday, but it's not a high priority for me.


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