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This review is from: Fargo (DVD)
Whenever I rave about a movie I've recently seen, there's the inevitable question "What's it about?" With regard to this film, I recall responding that it's about a pregnant police chief who eventually solves a series of brutal murders somewhere in the Upper Midwest. (Brainerd, Minnesota? Fargo, North Dakota?) It is always a pleasure to observe Frances McDormand's performance in a role for which she received an Academy Award for best actress in 1996. The film was directed by Joel Coen who co-wrote the screenplay with brother Ethan. This film effectively combines some of the most dead-on (albeit affectionate) cultural satire of Scandinavian Americans in "Small Town U.S.A." with severe physical violence as when one victim is stuffed upside-down in a wood chip machine. (When I first observed "Margie" methodically gathering information, I was reminded of Colombo whose keen mind is also underestimated.) The basic story involves Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a desperate swindler. After his wealthy father-in-law Wade Gustafson (played by Harve Presnell whom I did not recognize) refuses to become involved in a real estate project, Lundegaard hires Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimstad (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife Jean (Kristin Rudrud) so that he can use most of the ransom to cover his debts and thereby conceal his crimes. Of course, his plan fails and several lose their lives as a result. As the film ends, the camera focuses on Chief Gunderson as drives her police sedan across the bleak winter landscape (think of the surface of the moon beneath three feet of snow and ice), with one of the two kidnappers in custody. She claims not to understand how anyone could behave badly in such a "beautiful" world.
Yes, this is a nasty film...at times severely violent. It also has a number of delightful comic moments, notably during Chief Gunderson's conversations with her husband Norm (John Carroll Lynch) as well as with Lundegaard. The acting by all members of the cast is consistently brilliant under Coen's crisp direction. After numerous viewings, what I still enjoy most in this film is McDormand's performance. Chief Gunderson may have a trusting heart but also a remarkably sharp mind. She wants so much to believe in goodness, to think the best of others, but she is by no means naive. As played by McDormand, she invests this film a warmth which is all the more remarkable, given the physical setting and time of the year.
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Initial post: Nov 2, 2013 8:29:01 PM PDT
Just for clarity, the movie doesn't end with the Margie telling the thug that she doesn't understand how people can behave like he has over "a little money" when there is so much more to life than a little money, and it's such a beautiful day. This is the SET UP for the ending, which takes place in Margies home with her husband, and THEN the movie ends AFTER this final and absolutely critical scene. This is my favorite movie ending of all time, so I just had to point that out.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2013 7:32:06 PM PST
Robert Morris says:
Thank you for setting the record straight.
I share your high regard for this film.
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