Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo takes a humorous, dark twist on the crime movie. The film is set in Minnesota where Jerry, a car salesman, hires two thugs Carl and Gaear (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so her wealthy father will pay the ransom that he’ll get a piece of. The film mostly follows Marge (Frances McDormand) the chief of police in a town where the thugs kill a cop and two teens while escaping with the kidnapped wife.
Viewers are moved between a couple of threads in the story: Jerry bumbling to get the ransom money from his father-in-law, and the two thugs (mainly Carl) as they try to get the ransom as police slowly pick up their trail. All the while, the calmness and normalcy surrounding the characters striking as is their thick, northern — nearly Canadian — accents, and we’re gently reminded of Marge’s domestic side through her pregnancy and her supportive, nondescript husband, Norm.
I’ve also seen the Coen brother’s No Country for Old Men, and like that film, Fargo left me feeling uncomfortable the entire movie and leaves me with the same, unsettled feeling. With that said, I enjoyed the film and found it entertaining. I really appreciated the camera position in this movie. During dialogue scenes, the camera is positioned directly between the characters, not the over-the-shoulder shot that’s typical in this genre. Fargo also features numerous close, single shots of characters as they think, work, or react, forcing intimacy with the characters, even if it’s someone we don’t like (such as Jerry). Additionally, the cut to black as the axe swings into Carl as he shouted “NO” before being cut off was startling and caused me to jump in my seat.
Fargo is true to its tagline that “A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere” and shows the ripple effect from one planned act of violence on the people involved, but what makes the film so special is the way the story contrasts these dramatic story elements with those of everyday like to show how at the end of the day, the police involved have to go home to the ordinary parts of their lives.
Every Frame A Painting’s Joel & Ethan Coen – Shot | Reverse Shot goes into detail looking at the use of the Coen brother’s distinct way of shooting the classic shot/reverse shot, and is what brought my attention to their style, and caused me to choose Fargo for this assignment.