Nobody expected the 1996 film “Fargo” to be a super hit. The 90s was the time for Star Wars, rom-com, and other pop culture stuff. Darkness and violence were looked down upon and were seldom considered to be the crowd pullers. So, when Coen brothers released their film on March the 8th, 1996, even they had very minimal expectations with it.
The director duo Ethan and Joel Coen had made three films before “Fargo” all of which were box office bombs despite receiving rave reviews from the critics. The “dark” and “violent” themes of the films though impressed the critics, but the film failed to attract more than a few people to the theaters.
“Fargo” also had a mark of Coen brothers’ noir style with its themes hovering over cruelty and black comedy. The film wasn’t expected to be any different than preceding failed films.
So, when William H. Macy starrer exceeded the expectations, everyone was surprised, even Coen brothers themselves couldn’t believe the box office numbers.
“Fargo” is still considered as their greatest achievement not only in the financial aspect but also in terms of artistic creativity. Even though they did create other brilliant films afterwards like “No Country for Old Men” but to this day, “Fargo” is arguably the best film they have ever made.
The film is a paragon of crime thriller with interwoven facets of black comedy, making it one of the most iconic and rare films of the 1990s. The plot threaded through a subliminal concept of evil and how it can debauch a weak mind.
The protagonist Jerry Lundegaard played by perpetually underrated actor William H. Macy is the steerer of the plot. His need or greed for more financial power draws him to an unscrupulous path which gradually leads him to an illegal pursuit.
His tryst with illegal affairs starts small as he obtains a loan for the cars he has never bought and asks his father in law to give him money to buy a piece of land he never intends on buying.
He shows his most satanic vice when he hires two hitmen to kidnap his wife in order to force his father-in-law to pay the ransom in which he intends on getting a share off.
The most intriguing characters of the film were the kidnappers, Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud (played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare respectively).
Showalter is the most-sane of the two and is rather a careless fool than anything evil. The horror part of the film was the character Grimsrud, a psychopathic criminal who has no sympathy for human lives and could kill anyone without flinching.
The best performance in the entire film came from Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand); she is moral, witty, sharp, and pregnant. The fact that her pregnancy became irrelevant as the film went on tells us that Coen brothers had envisioned the character to be beyond the limitations of womanhood.
Marge Gunderson’s exceptional investigative skills was a noteworthy resistance to the cunning and deceitful mind of the protagonist.
Frances McDormand’s performance was hyped up by the fans during the time of its release and the heaps of acclaim eventually led her to win the Best Actress Award at the 1997 Oscars. Coen Brothers also got nods in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. They have won a total of 14 Academy Award nominations among which they have won four times, apart from winning the Best Adapted Screenplay for Fargo, they won three major awards for “No Country for Old Men”- Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Direction, and Best Picture. “No Country for Old Men” also saw a Spanish actor Javier Bardem winning the Best Supporting Actor Award in recognition of his menacing role of Anton Chigurh.
“Fargo” is one of the memorable pop culture icons from the ’90s, the footprints of which can still be seen today. It could easily be seen in the list of top 10 films released in the ’90s alongside cult films like Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Heat, Matrix, Fight Club, and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.