Rated R, 97 mins
★★★★★ ★★★★★ by 1 User
Set mainly in the Coen brothers' native Minnesota and harking back to the sordid themes of their first feature (Blood Simple), this 1996 crime story may be their best picture to date, but if you have the same problems with their movies as I do Fargo won't brush them all away. Though the Coens combine their usual derisive amusement toward their characters with a certain affection and condescending appreciation for some of the local yokels (in particular a pregnant police chief played by Frances McDormand), their well-honed antihumanist vision remains as bleak as ever. A slimy car dealer (William H. Macy) sunk in debt hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so they can split the ransom from her wealthy father (Harve Presnell); the scheme leads to a good many pointless deaths that we aren't expected to care too deeply about. Given the Coens' taste for hoaxes, their claim that some version of the story actually happened may or may not be specious, but ultimately it doesn't matter. What mainly registers is the quiet desperation and simple pleasures of ordinary midwestern lives, the fatuous ways that people cover up their emotional and intellectual gaps, and the alternating pointlessness and cuteness of human existence. This may be a masterpiece of sorts, but it left me feeling rotten.
Director: Joel Coen
Writer: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Producer: Tim Bevan, John Cameron, Ethan Coen and Eric Fellner
Cast: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, William Macy, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, John Carroll Lynch, Kristin Rudrud, Steven Reevis, Steve Park and Jose Feliciano

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Reviews / Comments (2)

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★★★★★ ★★★★★

I agree with Chris Pickett from 3 years ago, that Rosenbaum from 18 years ago is certainly "off bullseye" -- as they say in the biz -- with this review of Fargo, yet another Coen masterpiece.

What Rosenbaum fails to realize is that one can entirely champion a people while simultaneously remaining able to be amused by those same peoples' strangenesses and mannerisms. As Rosenbaum seems to prove in every writing, he doesn't seem able to relate to movies in a personal way, only in some baloney, posturing, fakey intellectual way. He's like that brother-in-law who's well-read but misses the real point of most anything, and yet is the most forceful with his viewpoints at the uncomfortable holiday table.

The Coen's characters are keenly observed, down to every bit part. Everyone is familiar here -- maybe this trips up Rosenbaum: he's used to seeing movie cliches? Does Rosenbaum think anything at all about the juxtaposition between these overly nice, nearly vacuous seeming, humdrum, workaday Midwesterners and, as Pickett mentioned, the criminals who have no regard for any human moment?

That the small roles aren't telegraphed in doesn't make them any less significant; our complex relationships with them -- and with the similar "bit parts" who fill our real lives -- are important. By the time we're watching the old man pushbrooming the snow from his driveway as he gives the tip to the trooper -- in that brilliantly hilarious static scene with no cuts -- we're watching the real soul of the movie at work. "He asked me to call it in, so I called it in. . . . . End of story."

I think of that man so frequently, in my daily life. THAT'S character impact. That's who that character is. "I called it in. End of story." That's all he wants in life. Or maybe more accurately, he can't imagine being any different than he is for something that will hurt somebody else. That's the heart of "Fargo."

Rosenbaum is so oblivious in so many reviews -- and of course he wouldn't like the Coens. The Coens speak through instinct and brains -- something that Rosenbaum, all his life, has seemed to be fighting.

Posted by skiplittle on 09/10/2014 at 2:17 PM

You sir, are a hemorrhoid. Your simplistic (and inane) "reviews" show that at the very least, you should be left to doing reviews for basic cable shows, as your writing style and complete lack of appreciation for film is better left with the caliber of people who sit at home shouting the answers to game-shows at the top of their lungs, eating off of TV-trays, and taking the local news too seriously. Antihumanist isn't a word, and if it were, it would not be the right one to describe Fargo, a movie that celebrates the truthful and the hard-working, and finds it fitting to punish those who live only to gain and destroy. If you are being paid to write, I would appreciate it if you would at least burn anything you've purchased with said money as you never actually earned it (or even looked at writing as anything other than a hobby... like say, scrapbooking).

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Posted by Chris Pickett on 06/18/2011 at 8:07 PM
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