Tuesday, March 08, 2016

5 Off My Head - Fargo La Femme

In case you were wondering why this week's banner was All About The Margie, now you know -- today is the 20th anniversary of Fargo! The film got a limited release on March 8th 1996, and it went wide a few weeks later -- since I was in college in upstate New York at the time I probably didn't see it until some time in April, but I actually have an incredibly vivid memory of seeing the film (which is surprising because my memory is usually riddled with holes). 

It was my very first visit to The Little, the first-class art-house theater in Rochester, New York, and I saw the movie with this guy Chris, who was a good friend of my then boyfriend. (Hi Chris where ever you are!) Anyway I ended up working at the Little for my last couple of years of college, so my love for that particular small-city institution was born right here and right there by the Coens. Not hard to buy, right?

I particularly remember the "This Is A True Story" title-card contrasted against the "This is a work of fiction..." during the end-credits striking me at the time -- I'd never seen that sort of purposeful tweaking of the "truth" before, and it felt weirdly like a violation? It felt transgressive enough, to my still-developing cineaste's brain, to leave a mark anyway.

Coincidentally today also happens to be International Women's Day, and since Fargo has one of the greatest lead female characters of all time (heck Marge Gunderson as delivered by Frances McDormand is one of the greatest female characters of all time, lead or supporting) I figured I'd focus in on the women in the film for today's celebration. There actually aren't a lot! In fact there are five, unless I'm missing somebody. So here, a list of...

 The Five Female Characters In Fargo!

1. Okay I am cheating right off the bat, counting the two hookers as one, but they're such a tag-team I think you'll forgive me. They do everything together: Fuck, Watch Carson, Appreciate Da Bears. They finish each other's sentences and thoughts, even. I mean clearly he was just kind of funny-looking, since these two agree.

2. By far the largest female role in the film besides McDormand, I think Kristin Rudrüd is this movie's unsung secret weapon. Poor Jean Lundegaard, surrounding by dopes and assholes and dopey assholes, entirely unaware of the fact until it's way way way way too late. She puts up a good fight when she can, at least. But what happens to Jean smarts because of how clear Rudrüd makes it that this perfectly nice lady didn't have any of this coming.

3. I love this waitress so much. I know that she's considered one of the film's so-called "punchlines" that people cite when they want to make arguments about the Coens being mean to their characters and judgmental of this place, but that just strikes me as snobbery - she's perfect; the Midwest distilled to a side-nod.

4. The wife of the guy who's getting "true-coat" forced upon him at Jerry's car-dealership really makes this scene work - her silent exasperation set against her husband's increasing verbal exasperation is the Laurel to his Hardy. She makes everything ten times funnier with her sighing and nodding.

5. Yup, yet another prostitute! (I'm sure the think-pieces about this movie's high hooker percentage has already been written somewhere on the internet.) But jeez does this lady milk her lopsided expressions for all they're worth. My favorite bit of dialogue from this scene is when Buscemi asks her if she likes escorting and her goofy agreeableness melts away and she's all, "What are you talkin' about?"

BONUS: I considered counting "Linda Cooksey," the woman that Mike Yanagita supposedly stalked, but we never do get to see Linda. Still - MIKE YANAGITA!!!


Pierce said...

Having been a Minnesotan for nearly 39 years (after 25 in Wisconsin) my ex and I went to see Fargo during its "Premiere" engagement at the Uptown Theater. We howled through it, because it was so obviously over the top. A few weeks later, we attended the trailer trash wedding of my ex's cousin. It was trailer trash, because we were both dressed better than either the groom or the best man. We talked about the movie, and my ex got really angry because, even though she hadn't seen it, she took offense that they were "making fun" of people from Fargo.

Keep in mind that there's not a single scene that was actually shot in North Dakota. The King of Clubs bar, now torn down, was on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, near a White Castle and the original Totino's Pizza Kitchen.

A few weeks later I was talking with a colleague at work who had gone to school with the Coens in St. Louis Park. He asked me if I remembered this murder and I said I didn't. He told me that it was because it never really happened. The characters in Fargo are all named after people whom they'd gone to High School with, and was deliberately phony.

I was thrilled to see both Frances MacDormand and W.H. Macy in it, because they had both appeared in productions at the Guthrie when I was there. Macy was Rosencrantz in Hamlet and MacDormand was one of The Three Sisters. There are a lot of local actors in the cast as well. Kristin Rudrud had gone to school with my ex.

All this said, I recommend that if you haven't seen Drop Dead Gorgeous, that you do! The first time I saw it, I was in Edinburgh. I was seriously jetlagged at my best friend's house, and I couldn't sleep. It was so windy outside I thought the windows were going to break. I watched Drop Dead Gorgeous. A short time later, I was standing on line at the Uptown to see Gosford Park and both Claudia Wilkens and Richard Ooms were standing behind me. I told her I'd just seen her in DDG in Scotland, and she said "Scotland!!!" in that voice of hers. In the original ending, she's supposed to be the one who goes on a rampage, which was changed in the final cut to a more logical one. It was shot here, and in the scene where Kirstie Alley is talking about the "Parking lot of America," they're actually at Eden Prairie Center, not the Mall of America.

creamycamper said...

That means it has been almost 20 years since my mom, sisters, and I started saying "Hun" instead of normal nicknames. Still rings true, "Hey Hun, how ya doin?" "Wha cha got there Hun, Arby's?" LMAO One of the best movies EVER!

FoxVerde said...

love how you use the phrase "Jean smarts" in this entry and the real jean smart starred in last season's tv tribute. happy fargo!

Rob K. said...

One of the greatest movies ever. Trivia: The "What're you talkin' about" prostitute (who is my total fave) has a bit in the karaoke scene in My Best Friend's Wedding.