Nominated for seven Oscars®*, including Best Picture, and winner of two (Actress and Original Screenplay), this “darkly amusing” (Los Angeles Times) thriller combines a “first-rate cast” (Variety), “a dazzling mix of mirth and malice” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) and an unusual kidnapping plot that unravels the Midwest like never before.
Jerry (William H. Macy), a small Minnesota town car salesman, is bursting at the seams with debt … but he’s got a plan. He’s gonna hire two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It’s gonna be a snap and nobody’s gonna get hurt … until people start dying. Enter Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), a coffee-drinking, parka-wearing – and extremely pregnant – investigator who’ll stop at nothing to get her man. And if you think her small-time investigative skills will give the crooks a run for their ransom … you betcha!
This is a tale about an inept, hapless business man, fallen on extreme financial times. Knowing that neither his wife nor his wealthy father-in-law would offer him any help, he is desperate to find a way out of this particular hole so he hatches up a mad scheme. The plan is to arrange for his wife to be kidnapped and ransomed for money, his father-in-law will pay the ransom which would then be shared between the kidnappers and himself, thereby quickly solving all his problems. It is not surprising the plan inevitably fails, why does it fail? It fails because Jerry hires a couple of ill-fated, low-life, bungling losers to do the job. Jerry thought the kidnap would be an easy solution to his problems, but along the way his stupid idea results in the loss of many innocent lives.
Frances McDormand plays the police chief Marge Gundesun who is called in to investigate the murders. Even though she is pregnant she still manages to come across bright as a button and very sharp too. Her police skills never let her down, she never misses a clue in a crime scene, yet she conducts herself with a matter-of-fact approach which belies the sometimes gruesome nature of her job.
The Coen brothers cleverly infuse humour into this otherwise grim tale, it is this contrast of farce and tragedy and their keenness of observation that underpins the humour which makes the film so successful. The Coen brothers, having originated from Minnesota, are therefore aware of the quirks peculiar to the Minnesotans and so are able to convey these without being condescending. Yes the dialogue does crack you up, for example “yer darn tootin” is one of Jerry Lundegaard’s way of expressing agreement.
Fargo has been nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Director and Best Leading Actress it won two Oscars for Best Screenplay (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen), Best Actress for (Frances McDormand) and was the first film to bring the Coen brothers wide recognition as well as critical acclaim.
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