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Old 08-22-2017, 04:07 PM   #1153
Nebby. Back into the bag.
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Just finished watching Fargo for the first time. Thoughts:

Spoiler: show
I enjoyed it fine. I'd say I'd give it a 7/10, maybe. (Kinda waffling between the 8 and the 6!) Unlike the previous movie, which also probably got an 8/10 overall but was a mishmash of 10/10 perfections and 4/10 failings, Fargo is pretty homogenous in its quality. Good acting, good cinematography, good plot, good enjoyability, just good everything. Little great, but nothing bad either.

The introduction of Marge so late in the movie -- end of Act 2? Beginning of Act 3? -- is pretty unorthodox. Normally all of the main players are already gathered by the start of Act 2, and yet Marge all but usurps William H. Macy's character's role as protagonist upon her arrival. Perhaps that's in large part because Macy's character is a protagonist the audience can't get behind, a bad man who's done bad things which have in turn spiraled out of control. We feel sorry for him that they have spiraled out of control, but in the end, he's still one of the bad guys, and were he not in the driver's seat -- were this any other presentation of the story -- we wouldn't hesitate to hate him. So perhaps it is with some great relief that when Marge appears we are able to jettison Macy's character and to crown Marge our new protagonist.

I enjoyed the depictions of the folksy Minnesotans. Dialed up a bit, sure, but that's storytelling for you. Not sure why the movie got so much hate from that part of the country. No, you don't all talk like that. And no, you're not all simpletons, unlike the vast majority of the film's characters who are. But there are definitely elements in your neck of the woods who are. We have them here too, in Indiana, only without the Scandinavian-American accent.

Right when the film was in danger of outstaying its welcome, it hurriedly wrapped things up. On the one hand, this is good! It didn't outstay its welcome; it stayed exactly as long as it needed to. On the other hand, perhaps paradoxically so, I felt like the ending was too hurried. I would've appreciated a little more resolution with William H. Macy's character. A courthouse appearance, a scene from prison ... something. Anything.

I also felt like the primary killer's history and/or personality were not well-explored enough by film's end for us to readily accept his murder of Buscemi's character. Up until this final moment of the movie, the only people he's killed, he's killed all of them in a move at self-preservation. "Kill the cop so I don't go to prison for abduction." "Kill the eyewitnesses so I don't get the electric chair for killing the cop." Fine. Even if we don't agree with his actions, we can at least understand them devoid of knowing this man's backstory. But once he kills Jean and Buscemi in (in terms of how the audience perceives the news) back-to-back minutes, we now need more information on the guy. I was hoping, even expecting it would come during the scene where he's in the back of the squad car as Marge is taking him in. She had her chance at philosophizing, now it's his turn. But he just sits there quietly, looking mildly pissed off. It's bizarre. Why would you kill Jean now but for the last several days (or weeks!?) you were fine with her sobs and moans? ("Well maybe he finally snapped, Talon!" Okay, fine: but show it! Or explain it! Do something!) Why would you not draw your weapon on Buscemi any of the number of times he turned his back on you, but then you follow him out of the house, when he's armed and loaded, and attempt to murder him with an axe!? It could make sense, but as delivered it doesn't make sense. You just dropped this off at my doorstep without any explanation or build-up whatsoever. You were so eager to get to the wood chipper scene, you didn't stop to reason that maybe he should've pulled his gun on Buscemi from inside the house, or that maybe he should have shot Buscemi through the back of the head instead of attempting to axe-murder him.

Narratively, what was the point in keeping Jean alive past the point where she oafishly falls down her own stairs? There were numerous opportunities for Jean to kill herself by accident during the bungled abduction -- death by misapproximation as she falls out of the window from the second story, death by falling down the stairs -- yet the film takes none of these and keeps Jean alive. Okay. Fine. You need her alive for when the cop pulls them over. Except no you don't : it'd be perfectly fine to have her in a body bag in either the trunk or the back seat and for you two to be afraid of the officer discovering that. Jean's survival all the way until the final act doesn't really make any sense, narrative construction-wise. Keeping her alive accomplishes nothing of narrative value. On the contrary, having her be the cause of her own death back at the house would have made more tonal sense for this tragicomedy -- it would have taken the well-meaning petty criminals who were only looking to make a quick buck and suddenly placed the fear of the electric chair in them. That would have even better explained why the primary killer kills the cop during the pullover -- in the real version, he's scared of going to prison for abduction; but in my revised version, he'd be scared of the death penalty for murdering a housewife in her own home in Minnesotan suburbia.

That's okay. Even with complaints such as these, the film is still enjoyable enough and entertaining enough to stand on its own two legs. Whereas There Will Be Blood I don't want to watch again any time in the next ten years, Fargo I could be persuaded to re-watch soon. I'm not itchin' to! But I could be persuaded to.

Like There Will Be Blood, Fargo is another movie that I think has treats in store for the theme lover. Someone on a bonus featurette mentioned how they think Fargo is "a story about ordinary Americans trying to live ordinary lives." And while I didn't personally have that takeaway when I finished the film, I can see how the argument could be made. I can see how a theme-hungry moviegoer could find this in Fargo and enjoy it.

Oh! And I forgot to mention: the wood chipper scene. I think had heard about this, ages ago, in some vague and only semi-spoilery nature. But it had been completely forgotten by me until I could make out the noise that Marge was hearing on her approach. Man. I can see why this scene sticks with people.

Next time, we'll be taking a look at a bowling alley, some ashes, and a certain dude ...
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