Saturday, January 23, 2010
'Fargo' is a good film. But it's not the masterpiece that so many have willingly called it. I found it to be a solid, well-crafted dark crime comedy, but in the end I wasn't content. I was a little ambivalent over the movie's intentions, not sure what to think about the eccentricities just witnessed. I guess that's the way I feel about a lot of the Coens' work, as only two of their pictures, 'The Man Who Wasn't There' and 'No Country For Old Men' have left me truly satisfied. 'Fargo' has a clever little premise, that, according to the titles at the beginning, is a true story. William H. Macy plays Jerry, a car salesman who comes up with the devious, yet somewhat brainless plan to pay off a heavy debt. He hires two crooks (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and then demand the ransom from her wealthy father. Jerry then plans to split the money with the two crooks. As expected nothing goes as planned. Before the crooks are even given a chance to negotiate the ransom, violence has started spilling onto the screen and everything goes awry. To make things worse for Jerry, a very nosy and very pregnant police chief named Marge (played by Coen brothers regular Francis McDormand) starts investigating the unfortunate violence that the crooks leave in their tracks. One big problem I had with 'Fargo' is that there isn't enough time in the movie for the thick plot to unfold smoothly. It felt choppy and rushed, which could have been avoided if the slim running time of 98 minutes had been extended to a very reasonable two hours. Marge's investigation didn't seem complete. It's not entirely clear how she works things. Still, there is a lot to admire in 'Fargo.' As always, Roger Deakins' cinematography is flawless. Also, Carter Burwell's score is hauntingly brilliant. And then there's the performances, all of which fit the bill for the quirkiness of the Coens' trademark characters. William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi were excellent; but I really loved Francis McDormand as Marge. She deservedly won the Academy Award for her role, which was both funny and incredibly human. There's also nice support from Harve Presnell and John Carroll Lynch. Like 'A Simple Plan,' 'Fargo' is about how closely connected greed and violence are. Francis McDormand sums it all up at the end, when she asks one of the characters how he could do so much evil, just for a little money. That should have been the film's last scene. 'Fargo' is enjoyable, funny, and at times very provocative. But is it a great American movie? Absolutely not.