Fargo (1996)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you betcha. Yeah. Oooh, yeah! Yeah.

I get it. It’s satire. Nobody really talks like that, at least, not to that extent. Fine. Guess what else, though? It’s annoying. I’ll probably have dreams where the most used word in a person’s vocabulary is “yeah,” and then I’ll curse the day that I watched Fargo. I’ll swear at the Coen brothers for bringing me such a movie, and I’ll hope that I’ll be able to get back to sleep after I’m done with that. The next day, I might just watch Fargo again because of how entertaining it is.

The plot begins with a man named Jerry (William H. Macy) talking with two thugs in a bar. One of them is short and “funny lookin'” (Steve Buscemi), while the other is big and doesn’t talk much (Peter Stormare). Jerry wants them to kidnap his wife. They, understandably, don’t understand the reasoning behind that, especially if he’s going to pay the ransom. He explains: He won’t be paying the ransom, her rich father (Harve Presnell) will, and then Jerry and the thieves can split the money. Why Jerry needs the money is never explained, nor does it matter. Yer darn tootin’ it doesn’t!

As it turns out, these criminals aren’t all that good at their job. They somehow manage to capture Jerry’s wife, although even that seemed like luck. They’re pulled over by a cop with her in their car, and before you can say “yeah,” the cop has been killed. Unfortunately, a car drives by while they’re trying to get the body off the road, so two more “yeahs” get to be said, and there are now three dead bodies, all of which had done nothing wrong.

Before the murders, I figured that these criminals would be decent people. They meet with Jerry and seem to be quite charismatic. Well, Buscemi’s character was. The other one just sits there. I actually started off liking them, but after they begin to kill, I was no longer a fan.

It’s at this point where we meet a police officer named Marge (Frances McDormand), the biggest perpetrator of saying the word “yeah,” although that’s not because she’s unintelligent. After having breakfast with her husband, Norm (John Carroll Lynch), she arrives at the crime scene that the now-murderers left behind. Even though they tried to get rid of the cop’s body, I guess they decided three bodies would be too difficult to dispose of, even though burying them probably wouldn’t be too hard. She correctly guesses exactly what happened the previous night, and I was impressed.

For most of the film, she chases them, they try to get the money, and Jerry attempts to do business with them. None of their lives are all that rushed though, with plenty of scenes and dialogue exchanges not driving the plot forward. That doesn’t mean they’re without purpose though, as they either help us get to know the characters, or they make us laugh. Often times, both.

This is a black comedy, so I’m told, although I didn’t see what was so dark about its humor. Maybe I’m desensitized to it at this point, but I found most of the jokes to be dealing with pretty timid subject matter. Maybe it’s called that just because the main idea of the film is about a kidnapping — one brought on by the victim’s own spouse — and the fact that it’s played largely for laughs is how it gets put in this genre. Regardless, I laughed a lot and had an overall good time, so I’m willing to accept that as its genre, and if you like that kind of comedy, you’ll have fun.

Even though it is primary a comedy — sometimes a satire like with the overuse of the word “yeah” — it also has a fairly original premise and is often times quite thrilling. You want to see how everything plays out, and you worry about the lives of all the characters, good or bad. Sure, you want the good people to win, and you want the villains to lose, but you still want to see their story get closure, and you hope the death isn’t the end result of anyone, because of the fun their short time on-screen gives you.

The actors are also fantastic, with nobody giving a terrible performance. Just for the accent that many of them had to put on alone, they deserve congratulations. Doing that with a straight face, take after take — it must have been infuriating. They also find the right mix between being serious, sincere, over-the-top, and borderline psychotic. This is referring to all of the characters, not just one or two. Even the smaller characters who only get a few scenes manage to match the bigger stars.

There are two problems I have with Fargo. The first one is how annoying the “yeahs” do get. I get that it’s supposed to be comedic, but I was annoyed by it, especially when every other sentence started and ended with that word. The second is that the plot jumps around a little too much in terms of its characters, with some of them not getting enough time spent on-screen, while our main character also switches mid-way.

But these are small chips off a solid stone block. The fact is, I really enjoyed Fargo, even if I’ll be cursing the Coen brothers for days to come. The actors were great, the plot was original and compelling, and I laughed for quite a lot of the time it was playing. Yeah, it’s very annoying, but darlin’, it’s also entertaining and definitely worth a watch. Yeah, you betcha!

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