Offbeat Movies

I love movies that are quirky and well made and well acted. Here you will find reviews of movies you may not have heard of (I will try to avoid commercial successes, but some of them are good) that caught my attention because they are thought-provoking, have interesting story lines, unique characters, and good acting.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


If ever there was a movie to deglamorize crime, this is it.

Fargo opens with Jerry Lundegaard driving through a near white-out pulling a flatbed trailer to an epically tragic soundtrack. The thing on the trailer might well be a coffin instead of a tan Sierra. This sets the tone for the whole movie.

Dante’s Inferno is often criticized because the Devil is far more interesting than God. A lot of stories about the fight between Good and Evil have this problem, and the usual cure is the anti-hero, like the Dark Knight (Batman).

You won’t find that in Fargo.

Good in this movie is ordinary people doing ordinary things, epitomized by Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), seven-months-pregnant Chief of Police. Ordinary life in this movie is really....ordinary. It's about things like eating lunch, shovelling the drive, making breakfast for your wife before she heads off to a crime scene, checking into a hotel, and jumpstarting the car.

Think the homespun, quiet life of the local yokels is boring? Try spending some time with criminals Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stomare) and Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi). They are holed up in an unheated cabin, eating TV dinners. One of them barely speaks and the other one won't shut up. Their kidnap victim (Kristin Rudrud) is hooded and bound and reduced to a token to be redeemed for ransom money.

In a brilliant scene the camera flips faster and faster between the silent and slack-jawed Grimsrud, the dehumanized victim, Showalter cursing and banging on the TV trying to get reception, and the snow and white noise on the TV itself. And just when you have had enough of that the camera moves seamlessly to the Gundersons, snuggling and dozing in bed. Unless you are a real masochist, my bet is you would rather snuggle up with the Gundersons than hang out with Grimsud and Showalter, much less be their victim. This perfectly illustrates the message of Fargo, which Marge sums up at the end for Grimsrud (which I won’t share here in case you are one of the few people who have not seen this movie yet).

The appeal of this movie is the character development. You may not like the characters but you will find them fascinating to watch. The acting is so good that Steve Buscemi will forever be known as “the funny looking guy” and Peter Stormare has a band called The Blonde from Fargo. (Look him up on IMDb. He is a totally different person when he smiles.) And it’s not just the acting, it’s the characters themselves. No cliches.

Character is what drives the plot in this movie and not the other way around, unlike most of what comes out of Hollywood passing for entertainment. Fargo’s outcome is inevitable but not predictable.

There are lots of great shots in this movie. An overhead shot of a snow-covered parking lot dotted with trees in diamond shaped planters would be perfect as a print for curtains. Stark images of the white and empty Minnesotan winter abound. What does it represent? Well, you can figure that out for yourself.

I want to avoid commercial successes (because, let's face it. you've heard of them and probably seen them) but Fargo is just too good and fits the bill too well to overlook. It is timeless. I was thrown a bit by the CRT TVs and landlines and 90s hair because otherwise this movie isn't dated at all.

Jah, Margie.

On IMDb:

Buy this movie

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