Monday, 7 June 2010

And Here Ya Are, And It's A Beautiful Day.

I'm already on record with my feelings regarding the brothers Coen. With two films since this all started, no less: here and here. As with all rules, however, there is always an exception, and for me that exception is Fargo.

Joel and Ethan's 1996 black comedy was, I think, the first of their films I ever saw, and it is hilariously fantastic. I watched it again recently in order that I could confirm that I did, in fact, enjoy it, and my memory did not disappoint me.

This. Scene. Killed me.

Set mostly between Minneapolis and the titular Fargo, North Dakota, the film centres around Jerry (William H Macy), in financial straits and needing to come up with some cash, fast. He is married to Jean (Kristin Rudrüd), whose father Wade (Harve Presnell) is the wealthy owner of the car dealership Jerry works for. Jerry organises for criminals Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife, planning to get the $80,000 ransom money from Wade and keeping it half to himself. However, after being stopped by state troopers with Jean in the boot, the plan goes awry. Marge (Frances McDormand) is the police officer in charge of an investigation that starts with looking into the results of this plan gone awry, but in the process she begins to unravel the whole mess, all the while seven months pregnant.

There are a lot of terrific characters in the film, and they are all played perfectly by the excellent cast. Macy is suitably neurotic and panicky, digging himself deeper and deeper in an attempt to get himself out of the horrible situation he has got himself into. McDormand is a terrific highlight, somehow bringing incredible humour into her character in the most god-awful circumstances. Her deliveries, combined with killer lines from the Coen's, are so deadpan and serious despite the ridiculous circumstances, and her pregnant waddle simply adds to the humour. However, her character is so clued in and sharp, and so self-deprecating in its own special way. It is a genius character, perfectly pitched. Buscemi is at his manic best, matched by the almost silent Stormare, who seems happy to sit on the sidelines until such a time as a sudden verge of perhaps unnecessary violence is called for.

The bevy of characters blend seamlessly together to create a fluid and coherent story, completely unambiguous as it weaves across state lines and back again. Some of the set ups are ridiculous when taken alone, but in the context of the film work wonderfully. The Coen's picked up their first screenplay Oscar (to go with McDormand's Best Actress trophy), and definitely deserved it for this highly original and entirely compelling film. For me, this is them at their absolute peak. They hardly needed the beautiful work in snow (which I understand is particularly hard to shoot in) of their trusted and long-time cinematographical companion Roger Deakins. But the pretty pictures never go astray.

5 stars.

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