What parents need to know
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?
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?