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Movie Review: “Fargo”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Fargo

Theatrical Release: 4/5/1996

Theatrical Release: 4/5/1996

Synopsis

Jerry Lindegaard (William H. Macy) is desperate to make some serious money. He sees a business opportunity, but he needs a lot of money to get the ball rolling. His father-in-law, Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell), is extremely wealthy, but Jerry knows he will not just give him the money as an investment. Thus, Jerry hatches a scheme to get the money out of his father-in-law.

The plan is to hire a couple of men—Carl Showalter (Steve Buschemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare)—to kidnap Jerry’s wife. They will then demand ransom, which Wade will pay, and Jerry will get the money he needs. Unfortunately, things quickly take a dark turn after Gaear leaves a few dead bodies behind him. As a result of the murders, a persistent and witty local cop named Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) gets put on the case. Jerry planned a clean kidnapping in which no one would get hurt, but things have gotten out of hand very quickly, and he is growing increasingly desperate as the walls begin closing in around him.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Carl & Gaear (+8pts)

The Beginning (-2pts)

Jerry & Wade (+8pts)

Jerry’s Plan (-4pts)

Marge & The Case (+5pts)

Jerry & Jean (-3pts)

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Pro: Carl & Gaear (+8pts)

These two worked really well for this movie. The movie was a slower paced crime movie, but the addition of these two characters made it pretty entertaining. Carl was the "brains" of the operation, but I use that title very generously. He was the one Jerry was in contact with, and he was the one coming up with the plan. However, being played by Steve Buschemi, you would be justified in assuming this was a comedic character. Carl was a barely competent criminal, and the situations he found himself in, and Steve Buschemi's performance, made this an entertaining character.

Then there was Gaear, who was the muscle of the operation. This guy was a cold-blooded, trigger-happy criminal, that got the duo into quite a bit of trouble due to his actions. If you have seen Peter Stormare in other roles before, then you know that he is no stranger to playing hardened criminals, and that was what this character was. He was cold, unpredictable, and his actions were the snowball that began rolling at the top of the hill, making way for everything bad that would happen later in the story. This character did not say much, but he was important for this story, as the movie would have been pretty boring and predictable without him in it.

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Con: The Beginning (-2pts)

The beginning of the movie was a bit slow, but I was okay with this because of how things began progressing exponentially shortly after. The problem I had in the beginning of the movie was that it just sort of began without giving us any context to who characters were and what they were after. The filmmakers just sort of jumped in, with the first real scene being Jerry explaining to Carl what the job was. Without any context to who any of these characters were or what they wanted, this scene made little sense. This would have been okay if there was enough in the scene to make it interesting regardless, but that was not the case here. It was just a random start with a lot of dialogue, and no reason for the audience to understand or be invested in any of it. It was a rough start, and I think could have been avoided entirely with one quick scene beforehand, explaining who Jerry was and what he was after.

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Pro: Jerry & Wade (+8pts)

I was not a fan of Jerry as a character, simply as a result of his plan. That being said, I enjoyed how William H. Macy portrayed the character, as a character who was becoming increasingly unhinged. He was quickly losing control of the situation, and William H. Macy played the character in a way that will make you want to root for him, even though he was not a very good person. Part of what contributed to this was also his relationship with his father-in-law, Wade.

Wade made it very clear that he did not think very highly of Jerry. He only cared about and associated with him because he was his daughter's husband, but beyond that, Wade did not really care about Jerry. He made his view of Jerry very clear, which was part of what made me want to root for Jerry. Jerry was not a very likable character on paper, but both William H. Macy's performance and Jerry's relationship with Wade were really effective at making the audience change their mind about Jerry—if even just a little—and I thought both added much needed layers to this story.

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Con: Jerry’s Plan (-4pts)

I kind of already mentioned this, but Jerry's plan made him out to be a pretty unlikable character. The filmmakers were able to partially make up for this due to William H. Macy's performance, and Jerry's relationship with his father-in-law, but at the end of the day, it was still pretty tough to root for this guy. He intentionally put his wife and his family in harm's way, and he did so all to get money out of his father-in-law. That was what was established in the opening scene of the movie, and I do not want to say anything more than that to avoid spoilers, but it was hard to relate to a guy who was willing to do what Jerry was willing to do.

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Pro: Marge & The Case (+5pts)

The accents in this movie were pretty entertaining, and Marge was the character who had the thickest one—or at least she used it the most frequently. On top of that, I also just liked this character. She was the witty, devoted cop, trying to figure out who was responsible for three murders. She was simply the protagonist that this movie needed—due to the unlikable Jerry.

Marge was smart, she was not afraid of confronting the antagonists, she was pregnant—making her inherently more likable—and Frances McDormand did a decent job in the role. The character was a relatable protagonist, who kept the plot moving, and she even added some humor here and there. The case that she was assigned to had some twists and turns, and it took her on a bit of a road trip, but Marge was the character that kept the story moving, and I liked watching her as she was slowly closing the walls in on Jerry and his plan. I was not expecting much from this character, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised, as I thought Marge was one of the better characters in the movie.

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Con: Jerry & Jean (-3pts)

One thing I thought this movie was missing was some conclusion to Jerry and Jean's story. I do not want to give anything away regarding how this movie ended, but I thought some final scene showing Jerry's remorse for what he had done would have been pretty impactful. This guy put his wife in harm's way, but the focus was never really on that. The focus was on money, with Jerry's wife really taking the back seat. Giving some more focus to Jerry's decision and the weight that should have come along with his choices would have made the ending of this movie a lot more impactful than it was. Instead, it was almost like the filmmakers forgot about Jean and they did not really care if that storyline got any closure.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (87pts)

This movie had a bit of a rocky start, but it ended up building up quite a bit of momentum. The rocky start came from being thrown into the movie in a dialogue heavy scene that consisted of characters we did not know talking about other characters we did not know and talking about a vague plan that we had no investment in. It would not have been a bad scene if we had gotten literally any context beforehand, but fortunately, the movie moved on from this pretty quickly. Jerry Lundegaard was a pretty unlikable character, but William H. Macy's performance and the character's relationship with his father-in-law made him a little easier to root for. I also thought the movie could have used some closure for the storyline between Jerry and Jean, as I never felt that Jerry had any remorse for his decisions. Fortunately, where Jerry was a difficult protagonist to root for, Marge was not.

Marge added some much needed humor to the movie, both due to her reactions and her accent, as well as her interactions with some of the locals that she was questioning. She was also witty, and brave when it came time to confront the antagonists. She was a strong character, and she was one that this movie definitely needed. Finally, there were the two antagonists. One was comical and barely competent, and the other was a cold-blooded killer who was the catalyst for really all of the bad things that happened in this movie. These two characters were entertaining to watch, and they were unpredictable in their actions. All of this came together to make for a flawed movie with a rocky start, but it was one that became an entertaining and unpredictable movie with plenty of deaths to keep audiences excited.

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