Frances McDormand’s Brilliant Performance In “Fargo!” “Cult Movie Monday” Says “You Betcha” To Oscar!

Ready For An Ice-Cold Film Noir?

This edition of “Cult Movie Monday” offers up a modern day film noir: a moody, brilliant modern take on crime and justice, thanks to filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, who won the Best Picture Oscar in 2007 for “No Country For Old Men.” All of the elements that make that film a classic thriller are on display in “Fargo”:

Fargo – Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

This terrific 1996 crime thriller tells the “true” story of a botched crime in the very snowy “Fargo” – North Dakota…with a memorable performance by Frances McDormand as the cop who has to solve crime that has many twists.

McDormand won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Police Officer Marge Gunderson…

Here is the trailer:

FARGO, William H. Macy, 1996

William H. Macy is terrific as Jerry Lundegaard, who works in his father-in-law’s car dealership and has gotten himself in financial trouble. So, he stupidly and tragically hires two men to kidnap his wife for the ransom he expects to be paid by her wealthy father. These two.

It has been debated as to whether “Fargo” is actually based on a true story, as the opening sequence claims. The conventional wisdom is that the story was made up by the Coen brothers — even the fine print of the movie reads “no resemblance to any persons living or dead.”

But, according to Actor Peter Stormare, who is brilliant as the white-haired, sullen kidnapper, much of the movie may have actually been based on people and events from the Coen brothers childhood. “It is based on true stories from their younger days growing up in the twin cities — but they combined a lotta’ stories and hearsays in to one film,” said Stormare.

McDormand’s performance as Marge Gunderson is terrific…she takes a methodical approach to solving this crime, like in this scene when she confronts Macy in his car dealership:

Jerry Lundegaard: I told ya. We haven’t had any vehicles go missing.
Marge Gunderson: Okay! But are ya sure? ‘Cause I mean, how do you know? Do you do a count, or what kind of a routine do you have here?
Jerry Lundegaard: [growing uncomfortable with this questioning] Ma’am, I answered your question!
Marge Gunderson: [long pause] I’m sorry, sir?
Jerry Lundegaard: Ma’am, I answered your question. I answered the darned… I’m cooperatin’ here!
Marge Gunderson: Sir, you have no call to get snippy with me, I’m just doing my job here.
Jerry Lundegaard: I’m… I’m not arguing here! I’m cooperating. So there’s no need to… we’re doin’ all we can here.
Marge Gunderson: Sir, could I talk to Mr. Gustafson?
[Jerry gives her a glassy-eyed look, knowing full well that Gustafson is dead]
Marge Gunderson: Mr. Lundegaard?

Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare are the incompetent kidnappers – and are hilarious in their own darkly comic way…and there is a great running gag about Steve Buscemi’s looks:

Officer Olson: “What’d this guy look like, anyway?”
Mr. Mohra: “Oh, he was a little guy… Kinda funny lookin’.”
Officer Olson: “Uh-huh. In what way?”
Mr. Mohra: “Oh, just in a general kinda way.”

Two “locals” who sleep with the kidnappers also describe Buscemi that way as well “kinda funny looking'” – it’s a great bit of humor in a darkly black story…and I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t seen it, but the “woodchopper” scene is lovemaking at its best:

Or, as Marge Gunderson would say:

“You betcha!”

Let me know if you enjoy this “Cult Movie Monday” selection – and don’t forget another terrific thriller I shared:

Al Pacino’s comeback in “Sea Of Love” was helped by a great Ellen Barkin performance – see the trailer here:

See you in “Fargo!”

Categories: Academy Awards, Action Films, Art, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Great Films, Movies, Talent/Celebrities

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. I really enjoy McDormand’s work and loved her in Fargo. That movie made me a fan

  2. In terms of the Coen brothers, I loved “Fargo” but hated “No Country for Old Men”. Loved Frances McDormand in both “Fargo” and “3 Billboards” although the latter was disturbing.

  3. One of my all-time favorites

  4. John, I am sticking my neck out, I know, but here goes. I thought ‘Fargo’ was a wonderful film, ruined by having Frances McDormand star in it. (Ducks head from shrapnel…)
    I love all of the bits that she ISN’T in, and I am certain that if she hadn’t been married to a Coen, she would never have got a look-in at that part.
    She became even more annoying as she got older, by thinking she is some kind of spokesperson for the industry, and believing she is part of some non-existent ‘Acting Royal Family’. I just wish she would go away. 🙂
    For what it’s worth, I liked her in ‘Blood Simple’, and ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’. Well I liked her a bit, anyway… 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Interesting Pete…while I don’t agree related to “Fargo”, I will say that her Oscar-winning performance in “3 Billboards” was strident and offensive to me – as the film was.

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