From the List of Shame Files: Fargo

As a self-professed fan of the Coen Brothers, I am seriously delinquent on taking in their filmography. I’ve now seen all but their earlier stuff (I’m getting there!) and Fargo in particular is a film I was way overdue in watching. Fargo is an exemplary film in the Coen’s filmography, telling the kind of small crime story they have now since mastered, dressed in the unique trappings of Minnesota.

One thing I found especially interesting about Fargo is that it isn’t a mystery. The audience, following financially adrift car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) and his initial hiring of criminals Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), knows exactly what has transpired, and what crimes were committed by who. There is no mystery for us, like there would be in a traditional detective story.


That brings me to Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). Rather than trying to outguess our protagonist, focusing on the wheels of the plot, we are able to connect with her as a character. We experience her discovery of the gruesome details of the initial murders and every step of the way after that. We learn about her home life in addition to her job, and by the end of the film, Margie is one of the most fully-realized characters the Coens have ever committed to the screen. She’s the lynchpin of the entire film, so that by the time we are following her to a remote cabin we are absolutely in her corner.

Fargo is a great example of efficient, simple storytelling, that gives the audience just enough to understand the story and to make the film’s setting fully realized. So is Fargo worth watching for other first-timers? You betcha. (Sorry!)

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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