Rewatched Jul 19, 2012
Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
The Coen brothers are, if nothing else, incredible storytellers. Really, they may just be the finest pure yarn-spinners we've ever had in cinema and Fargo has go to be their greatest yarn yet. It doesn't have the puzzling nature and marvelous symbolism of Barton Fink or the heavy themes of No Country for Old Men, but rather it is just a stripped down and simple tale that is clearly from their heart and mind. As the tagline of the film states, this is "a homespun murder story" and it lays out a lot like that.
Fargo feels like the kind of warm tale that your grandmother told you by the fire the night before Christmas, except in the twisted minds of the Coens this tale is loaded with blood, axes and bodies in wood chippers. The always reliable cinematography from Roger Deakins and breathtaking score from Carter Burwell paint it as a noir tale and the brothers play it off as a more farcically inclined twist on that genre. Through the constant attempts at self-survival brimming from pure stupidity by the majority of its characters, Fargo has a ton of fun at putting these foolish people into more dangerous situations.
It's all grounded by the sweet and wholesome Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) at the core, whose relationship with her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch) is really just one of the most simple and sweet marriages put onto screen, but the contrast in her decency stands to further point out the bitterness in the rest of the characters. Having her as our investigator into these criminals is a perfect way to balance out how despicable the rest of the characters are, but with a cast as winning as this one and writing so uniquely riotous even the total jerks are an absolute joy to watch.
Seeing the foolish and stupidly selfish plot of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) fall apart before his very eyes is hilarious to watch, as this guy does an awful thing and ends up paying for it over and over again. Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) are one of the best criminal duos put on screen, as these two actors provide a perfect balance in style that makes for one uproarious scene after another. I could watch those two in a car together all day, but the Coens expertly utilize them just as much as they need to be utilized.
Fargo might not be my favorite Coen film overall (that would be Barton Fink, for those keeping score) but it definitely comes straight from their heart and is one of the films that best defines who they are as people and as filmmakers. There's a lovely quaintness to it all that makes it feel akin to the "home is where the heart is" motto, an ironic sentiment for a story filled with as much bloodshed as this one. The residents of this quiet community are just looking out for themselves and what results is a treat for just about everyone else.