Deeply in debt, downtrodden Minneapolis car salesman Jerry Lundegaard has tried to raise money by pitching business ideas to his wealthy father-in-law, for whom Jerry works, but nothing has been taken up. Desperate, he comes up with a plan to have his wife kidnapped, then split the ransom with the kidnappers, two ex-convicts, Carl Showalter and the lumbering Gaear Grimsrud. They kidnap Jerry's wife Jean and head for a remote cabin in the Minnesotan hills, but when they are routinely stopped by a State Trooper, their panic ends in several deaths. Heavily pregnant local police chief Marge Gunderson is called into the case, waddling through clues and witnesses while trying to cope with a busy home life and her strange food fads, not knowing that the deaths are related to a kidnapping. But the kidnappers get nervous, and both the hostage-holding and the ransom exchange go horribly wrong. Soon Marge is looking at a lot of bodies in the Minnesotan snow, and Jerry Lundegaard is seeing his plans go more and more horribly wrong....
Effective as both a bizarre film noir
and a very oddball comedy, Fargo
is one of the very best films from the Coen brothers, which is high praise indeed. Not content with adding some vicious and surprising plot twists, the brothers also have an ear for the strange, sing-song Scandinavian-tinged Minnesotan accents, and wide, bleak landscapes, usually covered in snow, make it seem like a very alien world indeed. Performances are superb, from William H.Macy's Jerry, a man seemingly crumpling under the weight of his troubles, through Frances McDormand's intuitive and dogged Police chief and the terrific pairing of Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare as the kidnappers, a comic pairing which suddenly turns very nasty indeed. Brilliantly written and directed, with a cast to match. Nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and for William H.Macy as (oddly) Best Supporting Actor rather than lead, Fargo
eventually picked up the awards for Frances McDormand as Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay.