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The Greatest Movies I’ve Never Seen #2: Fargo

by gwolinetz on October 9th, 2013

Movie that I did see in 1996: Independence Day
Movie that I did not see in 1996: Fargo (also, Trainspotting, which will come in a later iteration of this series)

I got my money back for Independence Day, because it’s a tremendous piece of crap. I should have used the refund to go see Fargo.

God, William H. Macy is a great actor. Intuitively, I know this. If you ask me whether I think he’s a great actor, I say yes without even thinking about it. Then you watch a movie like Fargo or Boogie Nights and you remember just how awesome the guy is. The guy brown bags it to work every day. He’s not a flashy star of any movie. He’s not doing big action thrillers. He’s a phenomenal character actor and kills it in an ensemble cast. Completely understated and totally believable in everything that he does. I actually found myself rooting for him in this movie (up until I started calling him a total putz about 20 minutes from the end). This guy is so goddamn likable.

Pregnant police chief. Brilliant. Has anyone ever seen the old SNL sketch “Lisa Pongrassic: Very Pregnant Undercover Cop,” where she’s like 9 months pregnant, but on a drug sting? And no one wants her to go, not because she’s pregnant, but because they have a surprise shower planned for her? And Dana Carvey is the drug lord who gives her Paddington Bear as a gift? I digress. Frances McDormand is fantastic also. First, I love how she immediately figures out what happened when she gets to the scene of the crime and how casually she describes the “execution-type deal” and talks through the whole thing like a triple homicide happens in Brainerd, MN every single day. Hysterical.

I love the classic Coen brothers dialogue in here also. That stuff that just passes the time in between actual plot points, like the joke about the personalized license plates.

Here’s the thing though: if this were simply a movie about a detective figuring out who committed this crime, it would probably be a terrible movie, because McDormand just methodically works through solving the crime and it’s reasonably straight forward. But it’s all of the usual Coen brothers brilliance: the subtle touches, the location that has the accents and the pleasantries and the friendliness, even in the face of a triple homicide, that make the movie so great. It all feels very Columbo-esque: a friendly, seemingly clueless detective faux-stumbling through the investigation, while actually being in control and calculated about every move. Just brilliant.

To close: “You’re such a super lady!”

3 Comments
  1. I love your love for W H Macy. He’s a classic and an acting legend, for sure. However, you didn’t mention his extensive and impressive work with David Mamet. He and Mamet founded a theatre company and staged some of Mamet’s best know works. He delivers Mamet-speak like nobody else barring, maybe, Rebecca Pigeon.

    If you love Macy, you should definitely check out his work w/ Mamet if you haven’t already.

    • gwolinetz permalink

      Well, Rebecca Pidgeon is actually married to David Mamet, isn’t she? Or at least she was at some point, I think. Point being: I hope she gets him. I couldn’t imagine living with a guy like that if you didn’t get him.

      As for Macy, I knew none of that about his relationship with Mamet, the company or anything. I’ll have to seek some of that out. Mamet a pretty prolific, interesting guy. I’ve seen a fair amount of his stuff, but in case it’s not abundantly clear, I’ve missed a lot of stuff (generally) along the way and see next to nothing new.

  2. I agree with everything you said, except your dislike of Independence Day. I know it’s crap, but I love watching it anyway. It’s will smith at his height of cheesiness.

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