In anticipation of the True Grit maelstrom (yet to descend on Brussels), this evening we watched a Coen brothers golden oldie – Fargo (1996). Frances McDormand, playing the seventh-month pregnant chief of police, Marge Olmstead Gunderson, definitely deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress. But she surely owed her success in some part to the collective contribution of the rest of the cast who, with deceptive simplicity, gave a wonderful portrayal of mass stupidity. The car dealer who has his wife falsely kidnapped so that he can share the ransom (played by William H. Macy) is stupid. The two low-lifers who kidnap her (played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) are stupid. The kidnapped woman’s curmudgeonly father who decides to take the ransom to the rendezvous himself and then has ‘a go’ is stupid. Everybody is unremittingly stupid, including Gunderson’s husband and her would-be lover, but though this is a black comedy and the characters talk with the singsong ‘Minnesota nice’ accent, there is little condescension. And Gunderson, waddling from atrocity to atrocity, radiates solid decency and an unflappable belief in humanity despite it all (that all including a body being disposed of in a wood chipper). I am not sure whether I believe that, as one review put it, the wintry Minnesota landscape is redemptive and incubates life, but there is a tacit human understanding that if we must go through such a winter, spring and summer will surely follow.

1 Comment

  1. Hugo Kijne

    I think this is the Coen brothers’ funniest movie, even beating ‘The Big Lebowski,’ althought it’s close.

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