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Fargo (1996)

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast overview: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand
Running time: 98 minutes

This is the first Coen brothers film I've watched. I hear your cries of anguish: "charlatan", "know-nothing idiot!". They're just one of those directors - or pair of directors, or is it just one of them that directs - that I've never got around to watching in-depth. However, if Fargo is anything to go by, I'll be watching a great deal more of their stuff. It's a fun little film, even though it has some pretty gruesome moments.

The script is first-rate, and you can completely imagine the world in which this film is set as vibrant and credible. The dialogue is gripping and particularly witty in some instances - the "big feet" quip from McDormand's character had me laughing probably more than it ought to, and the pancake conversation at the beginning between Buscemi and Stormare is fantastic also; completely mundane but still entertaining. William H. Macy is terrific as the incompetent Jerry Lundegaard, whose life seems to become more complicated and more prone to complete breakdown with every passing minute. Frances McDormand is also very good as Marge Gunderson. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare also play their respective parts well, particularly the former.

Fargo is, on the face of it, a crime film, but it's also a drama with elements of black comedy intertwined that make it all the better. The snowy Midwest setting adds to the atmosphere of the film further, and - as mentioned - the area itself feels like a character. The accents may have been exaggerated but they add a memorable quality that further implants the film on your subconscious.

Overall, I'd really recommend this, though you've probably seen it already. It's entertaining, yet at the same time repulsive, gripping and witty, and the writing and direction bring these elements together to make for one of the best films I've seen.

Marge Gunderson: I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.

Marge Gunderson: Say, Lou, didya hear the one about the guy who couldn't afford personalized plates, so he went and changed his name to J3L2404?
Lou: Yah, that's a good one.

Airport Lot Attendant: There's a minimum charge of four dollars. Long-term parking charges by the day.
Carl Showalter: I guess you think you're... you know, like an authority figure, with that stupid ****in' uniform, huh buddy? King clip-on-tie there, big ****in' man, huh? You know these are the limits of your life, man! The rule of your little ****in' gate here!
[gives the attendant the money]
Carl Showalter: Here's your four dollars, you pathetic piece of ****!

William H. Macy begged the directors for the role of Jerry Lundegaard. He did two readings for the part, and became convinced he was the best man for the role. When the Coens didn't get back to him, he flew to New York (where they were starting production) and said, "I'm very, very worried that you are going to screw up this movie by giving this role to somebody else. It's my role, and I'll shoot your dogs if you don't give it to me." He was joking, of course.

The role of Carl Showalter was written specifically for Steve Buscemi.

The wood chipper used in the movie is now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.