It’s a long time since I watched Fargo – so long that I ddn’t remember much except that I enjoyed it, and especially admired Frances McDormand as the heavily pregnant cop who is far and away the most appealing character in the film. So I took another look at it, and enjoyed it all over again.
It’s a Coen brothers movie, a darkly funny thriller. The starting point is that an inadequate car dealer, splendidly played by William H. Macy, is in deep financial trouble. His wife comes from a wealthy family, but his father in law keeps a tight grip on the purse strings. So he comes up with a cunning plan. He will hire a crook to kidnap his wife, pocket half the ransom, and get her back safe and sound. Easy.
Of course, it all goes belly-up. The crook brings along an associate, taciturn and – as it turns out – sociopathic. The kidnap is botched, and before long the sociopath turns violent, killing a cop and a couple of witnesses. This is where McDormand’s character is introduced, and her dogged detective work leads her to the car dealership. The father-in-law agrees to keep the kidnap secret, but the handover of the ransom goes disastrously wrong.
There are some grim moments in this film, but it’s oddly uplifting, because of the straightforward likability of McDormand and her husband, and their pleasure at the prospect of the birth of their child. There are many vivid images of small-town America in this film. Fargo has a high reputation, and deservedly so. It was one of the best crime movies of the 90s.