Fargo

 
Dark, gritty, and brilliant. Not for kids.
  • Review Date: July 14, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jerry lies to his family about money problems, commits fraud, and hires some crooks to kidnap his wife for ransom money.

Violence

Carl is shot in the face, a man is fed to a wood chipper, three others are shot at point-blank range.

Sex

Two characters are seen having sex with hookers.

Language

The f-word is said within six minutes of the opening, and even kids use it.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Carl and Gaear talk about getting shots of liquor and are seen drinking at bars often. Gaear chain-smokes through the movie.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie, while brilliant, is absolutely not appropriate for kids. Characters are shot and killed graphically, and one person is fed into a wood chipper. Characters also engage in sex with prostitutes and the sex is shown on screen, though not graphically. Jerry, the main character around whom the whole plot unravels, is a despicable example of a human being. He's a desperate, bumbling father who lies to everyone about money, is engaged in various frauds to cover debts, hires hit men to kidnap his wife for the ransom money, and lies to his son.

What's the story?

Car salesman Jerry Lundegaard's (William H. Macy) world is out of control. On the surface, he's a stoic North Dakotan. Inside, he's so desperate for money that he's arranged for low-lives Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife for ransom, hoping to get the money from his wealthy but disapproving father-in-law. But everything goes wrong. Jerry can't reach Carl and Gaear when he wants to call off the kidnapping. Then a deal worth nearly $1 million falls through. A car loan company is snooping around the fraudulent papers he used to get $320,000. After the kidnapping, his gruff father-in-law wants to handle it himself. More importantly, his wife is terrorized, and Carl and Gaear, being basement-level criminals, manage to kill three people on their way out of town. When chief of police Marge Gunderson (Francis McDormand) gets the case, she unravels the scheme with kindness, pathos, and a ravenous appetite.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

FARGO starts with a warning that the story, set in 1987 Fargo, North Dakota, is true: The survivors have asked that their names be changed but, "out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." What unfolds is the kind of banal evil and commonplace crime that make it onto television daily on programs like American Justice. The difference here is in the masterful storytelling and excellent acting.

Watching Fargo is like seeing a Joan Didion story come to life. The characters are well-fleshed-out, their tragedy is clear from the beginning, and the tone communicates a feeling of isolation as writers Joel and Ethan Coen build to their terrible conclusion. In other words, it's deliciously watchable and terribly violent (and definitely not for kids). The movie was nominated for and received several Academy Awards for a reason -- this is a well-told, well-paced, and well-acted thriller. Francis McDormand won the Oscar for her portrayal of the pregnant police chief. The film also introduced viewers to a funny and sad William H. Macy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what to do when you get in trouble. When you tell lies, how do you make up for it? Have you ever had to tell a lie to cover up a lie you've already told? Do you ever feel, like Jerry, that you could get away with anything? How did that work out for Jerry? How important is money for you? What would you do for it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1996
DVD release date:September 30, 2003
Cast:Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy
Director:Joel Coen
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Drama
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence, language and sexuality.

This review of Fargo was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byLoveMovies June 7, 2009
age 10+
 

An alright movie

I thought this movie was pretty good but I felt maybe if it moved at a faster pace it would be more thrilling and exciting - but thats probably just me :)
Teen, 16 years old Written bylelexy2000 March 29, 2010
age 16+
 
The movie Fargo was really good because i love Frances McDormand because she makes me laugh. but F word was used to many times in that movie.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written byevolinag June 16, 2012
age 14+
 

Some violence in overall solid thriller

"Fargo" is a critically acclaimed movie by infamous directors Joel & Ethan Coen. And yes, this movie has great directing skills, film editing, terrific music, superb cinematography and great actors. It is entertaining, has some perfectly shot sequences and is overall a solid thriller that is no waste of time. (SPOILERS may follow:) The movie has some violent scenes, such as a man being shot in the face and from then on heavily bleeding, a max hacking an axe into another man (this is not actually shown) and a corpse being fed to a wood chipper (you see a leg sticking out and a lot of blood in the snow). Some people found the last scene mentioned disturbing or too graphic, but however, the man is already dead when being thrown in there. I have seen similar scenes on "CSI". Some people are shot throughout the movie with little or no blood. Two men have sex with prostitutes, no genitalia are seen. There is typical R-language. In the UK and Ireland, this should have been rated 15 instead of 18. I think this movie is suitable for teens and up.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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