Another Classic I Haven't Seen Yet #24 - Fargo (1996)
So, when I started this trek through almost a century worth of classic films I somehow never saw, Fargo was always my insurance policy film – if I couldn’t decide from my vast list, I’d watch this one. Well, today was that day. And let me tell you – It should have been watched months ago.
My only dabbling in the Coen brothers previously was The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? I love both of those movies, but it never really spurred me to dive into their filmography. Fargo finally did – although I’m pretty sure this one is their crown jewel if the critics are correct.
So, William H. Macy’s character – a broke sales manager at an Oldsmobile dealership – decides to take out a bogus loan through GMAC on multiple non-existent cars. The dealership’s Native American mechanic with a checkered past puts him in contact with a guy who puts him contact with a guy who gets him in touch with two idiot criminals. They hatch a scheme to kidnap Macy’s wife and extort her rich father for the money so he can pay back GMAC. But since one of the hired criminals is trigger happy, the plan quickly goes sideways.
Let’s be fair though – all of the main characters in this story are inept at their jobs. Macy is decidedly not a criminal, but does criminal things. Buscemi And Stormare are criminals but out of their elements as extortionists. McDormand’s pregnant cop character misses hint after hint until it sort of falls in her lap after a second trip to the dealership. But that’s what makes this crime drama a crime drama-dy. The stakes are high and human lives are taken, but no one really knows what the hell they are doing to absurd, hilarious levels…but it’s never over the top. The laughs are gotten through stupid people in escalated, but somehow believable circumstances. Nothing is ‘over-done’.
On top of that, the location just adds to the comedy. The sleepy north mid-west, covered in snow and a healthy dose of “Minnesota nice”, embroiled in a series of crimes that you’d expect to happen in a large, metropolis east or west coast town. This just adds to the absurdity in a great way.