Fargo Movie Review

The Coen brothers are back and in a big way. Bigger, as a matter of fact, than ever before, because with Fargo, the Coens have produced a masterpiece of a film that outclasses anything they've done yet--from Raising Arizona to Barton Fink to even Blood Simple, the movie that put them on the map. Fargo is perhaps the best movie to come down the pike since Pulp Fiction--so good that it earns my seldom-awarded five-star rating.

Fargo is one of those rare pictures about which I have nothing negative to say. Based on an allegedly true story (since debunked as fiction) that took place in North Dakota/Minnesota in 1987, Fargo is the instantly enthralling tale of the financially-troubled Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), a plan to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrud), her wealthy father (Harve Presnell), the halfway-competent criminals who screw everything up (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare), and the pregnant cop who's on the case (Frances McDormand).

What makes a film like this, done a hundred different times in a hundred different ways, so good? Joel and Ethan Coen's script is the base--a wickedly funny and quirky screenplay that is executed with perfection by the leads, particularly Oscar-caliber Macy and McDormand. The brothers, who grew up in Minneapolis, where a large chunk of the action takes place, have also imbued the film with a rich and realistic regional flair--authentic from the weather to the clothes to (especially good) the accents. It's so real, I was actually hungry for back bacon when I left.

Every shot of Fargo is executed like it's a piece of art with the Coens' typical style; there is nothing at all wasted in the film, as the Coens make even what would normally be dull establishing scenes fun. Also, while Fargo is as black as black comedy can get, it isn't completely over the edge (the problem that shattered The Hudsucker Proxy). More restrained--very much "back to basics" a la Blood Simple -- the Coens have truly found their stride.

So don't read any more about the film. Just go see it, and prepare to have a blast. Don't be daunted by the typically poor Coen brothers film title of Fargo (not only is it nondescript, but not much of the movie is even set in Fargo (that's North Dakota)). Just bundle up against that icy cold.

Not gonna barf.


Fargo Rating

" Essential "

Rating: R, 1996


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