The Beauty in the Mundane in Fargo (1996) – Retro Review

Right off the bat, I would like to apologize to myself for waiting this long to watch Fargo (1996). A Coen Brothers Classic for a reason. It’s smart, funny, and has one of the most well written female protagonists in film history. Marge Munderson (Frances McDormand) is good at her job, has an equal relationship with her husband, and is able to keep her work separate from her personal life. She revels in the comfort of her ordinary life, which she comes to realize is really great over the course of the film.

Fargo follows a bunch of men who are clueless as they attempt to pull off a fake kidnapping to acquire money. Absolute loser Jerry Lundegaard makes a deal with Steve Buschemi and some guy with bleached hair to blackmail the father of his wife Jean by having her kidnapped for ransom. Loser Jerry tells Steve and Bleach Blonde that they can have half of the ransom if they help him out because his family is desperate for money and he is a really bad car salesman. Everyone agrees and we know that all of these people are bad.

Jean is kidnapped and while Steve and Bleach Blonde are driving her away, they are pulled over by a cop. They kill the cop as well as two other people who drove past the scene. The whole plan, as expected, does not go to plan. It falls apart and Jean and Steve end up dead. Marge finds Bleach Blonde putting Steve into a woodchipper in the woods behind their stakeout cabin. 

It should be stated that ACAB, however, in this world, Marge is really great at her job. All she really wants is for everyone to do better and for them to become good people. If all detectives were like Marge, diverged from policing, the United States would be a better place. When she drives Bleach Blonde off to jail, she criticizes him for all of the people he has killed “just for a little bit of money.” She does not necessarily feel the need to punish him, but she is disappointed that he could become so violent just for money. 

Marge has this incredible ability to nurture people, and it’s not just because she is a woman, this is part of her character and who she is. It’s also not her only quality either. As she gives Bleach Blonde the before mentioned speech, she does this to challenge his thinking and his morals. The way she approaches the situation is unique to her character, which remains consistent throughout. She herself is seven months pregnant during the entire investigation, literally nurturing a new human life. In addition to this, she maintains a healthy relationship with her loving husband Norm. She nurtures him by being the breadwinner of the family while he pursues a career as an artist. 

There is such beauty in the simple life of Marge and Norm and I could watch them sit and eat their fast food for hours. When first introduced to the couple, Marge is called onto the case, and Norm asks if she wants him to make her eggs. She refuses, but he makes them for her anyway because he knows she needs her nutrients for the day! He is such a kind man! He also brings her lunch at one point and further in, they both go to the 24-hour diner together, which is the epitome of small-town romance if you ask me. Norm and Marge are equals, balancing the other out and providing whatever the other needs. 

In one of the more odd scenes of the film, Marge contacts someone from her past, Mike Yanagita, who she meets up with at a hotel. Mike tries to make a move on her, which she rejects, and he then lies to her and tells her that he married one of their high school classmates who later died of cancer. Throughout this whole conversation, Marge is interested in uncovering how the lives of other people may be in this town. She momentarily wonders if she settled for her life, but it’s clear to her upon seeing the often destructive futures of the people around her, she comes to understand how good she has it.

Her life with Norm is just as it is depicted: normal. They are a lower-middle-class couple in the middle of nowhere who are able to provide for themselves and fall asleep next to the other while watching television at night. Norm gets his painting accepted as a three-cent stamp, which concerns him, but Marge reassures him that people need to use the three-cent stamp when the price of postage increases. This scene is so sweet and a perfect button to a film that may appear to be about crime, but in reality is a testament to how wonderful it can be to have an emotionally fulfilling life with all you need to survive. 

Marge and Norm don’t need to have a more exciting narrative, they enjoy being together and are happy to be welcoming a child into their world. In two months.

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