There is this sinister look of the Paul Bunyan statue that is standing in Brainerd in the movie Fargo. It has the same look and feel of some of the statues that are paraded in our town during the Lenten Season. It must be the lighting. It must be the ax that the statue carries. It’s a signpost, together with the long stretches of snow and desolate roads that increase that feeling of creepiness, the minimal details which increase the suspicion that something bloody and violent might happen. Later that will be confirmed. We will be offered violent scenes in this black comedy depiction of premeditated crime.
William H. Macy plays a car salesman who is in debt (and later will be in ‘deep shit’). To come up with big money, he hatches this plan to have thugs kidnap his wife, and to have his father-in-law pay the ransom. His solution to his problem is complicated by the fact that the criminals whom he hired to execute the plan are stupid, careless, and clumsy.
Frances Mcdormand plays the cop assigned to the case. She is pregnant. Even when all evidence she has gathered effortlessly lead to the criminals, she is shown not in a hurry to solve it. Her simple life continues. She talks with her husband in bed about his dreams, watches TV, binges in a canteen, meets an old friend-admirer with a name Mike Yanagita. She speaks with a specific accent and intonation and displays a mix of coldness and charm that somehow reminds me of a serious and funny Jane Fonda.
And she’s not the only one successful in registering idiosyncrasies that make the characters more real. Macy and the other cast are praiseworthy as well. No doubt it’s a potent combination of good acting, screenplay and direction that makes this movie a winner. It’s also good that each scene is evenly spaced in relation to the others. We feel that there isn’t much thinking to be done and that all we need to do is relax and let the story unfold. After watching we will sense though the care and genius in the conceptualization and execution to make this movie an effortless viewing experience.
I recall a nice mix of Hitchcock and Kubrick in the kidnapping scene, when the bathroom door is axed by the criminals and when the wife hides beneath the shower curtain. That shot of the shower curtain hooks sends me in a split-second bliss remembering Psycho. That body part protruding and being lodged in the wood chipper, the color of plants beside the machine. The abductee, hand-tied and blindfolded, made to walk in snow to let her find her way to escape if she could. That stare of that goon on Macy’s wife– the man who looks like a chubby and dangerous Ryan Gosling–while the other criminal, whose antagonist pedigree must have descended straight from the Home Alone movie, taps hard the TV to work, and when the TV screen opens, we see an image of insects mating. Yeah, yeah, this movie validates that there is more evil lurking deep in a silent man. Here also, the violent scenes are like flower stalks planted in between moments of comic and in places covered with ice. They will be in full bloom before the movie ends.