Directors: Joel and Ethan Cohen
Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stomare
Released: April 5, 1996
Best Picture (lost to The English Patient)
Best Director - Joel Cohen (lost to Anthony Mingella for The English Patient)
Best Actress - Frances McDormand (won)
Best Supporting Actor - William H. Macy (lost to Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire)
Best Original Screenplay - Joel and Ethan Cohen (won)
Best Film Editing (lost to The English Patient)
Best Cinematography (lost to The English Patient)
I have never seen The English Patient, so I can't knock it, but I'm willing to bet that if I did see it, I would like Fargo better. Fargo was my first introduction to the Cohen brothers and probably my favorite movie of theirs (although I really liked No Country For Old Men).
Even though the film is called Fargo, it mostly takes place in Minnesota. I have been to Minnesota several times and they really do talk with that accent like they do in the movie. I remember one particular time I was at the Mall of America in 2000 and when I was in the dressing room of Wet Seal or The Limited or one of those clothing stores and I heard a saleswoman say, "You betcha!" to somebody. I almost started laughing out loud right there because all I could think of was this movie and how true they captured the accents and language of the northern Mid-west.
The film takes place in 1987 Minneapolis and used car salesman Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy) needs a way to get money fast due to his financial problems. Instead of asking his rich father-in-law for a loan, he hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stomare) from Fargo to kidnap his wife, Jean, and ask for a ransom from his wife's father. Carl (Buscemi) is a small, mouthy guy described as an "odd fellow" by witnesses and Gaear (Stomare) is a tall, silent guy who doesn't much care for Carl and his excessive chattering. The plan is for Carl and Gaear to ask for $80,000 from Jean's dad and in exchange they will get a new car and half the money although Jerry plans to tell his father-in-law that the ransom is a million so he will get more money.
The kidnapping scene is played for laughs at first. Jean is at home watching TV and it's broad daylight outside when she sees the two men with crowbars approach the back door and are obviously trying to break in. They're not even trying to be discreet about it. Once they do get it, the scene turns more scary when you realize she really is in trouble when they chase her around the house and she nearly breaks her neck when she's wrapped around the shower curtain (from hiding in the shower) and trips and falls down the stairs. The two men keep her wrapped up in the backseat of their new car and while driving though Brainerd (home of Paul Bunyon!), they are stopped by a highway patrol man because their new car does not have plates. Carl says he will get rid of him but when Jean starts whimpering in the backseat, Gaear kills the patrol man. While Carl is trying to move his body from the road, one lone car passes them and obviously sees the dead man being dragged by Carl. Gaear goes after them and runs the driver and his passenger off the road.
All three bodies are discovered the next day and the very pregnant local police chief, Marg Gunderson (Frances MacDormand) is on the case. I felt for her having to get up early and go out in that cold snow! I have never lived in Minnesota or anywhere up north, but I know how brutal the winters can get!
One thing leads to another and things only get worse for Jerry. His plan may have seemed simple on paper, but after the three people were killed, things changed, and more people end up being murdered from this whole ordeal. This includes Carl, who after being killed by his partner who can't take him anymore, throws his body in a wood chipper, which is probably one of the most iconic moments of the movie. It's certainly the one I remember the most!
It's a dark movie, but with lots of laughs (more "Oh my God, did they really do that?" type laughs, not belly laughs) and highly recommended