My Favourite Movies:
Jerry Lundegaard (played by the always superb William H Macy) needs money badly. So badly that he hires two petty criminals (played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to ‘kidnap’ his wife so that he can pay them part of the ransom he plans to get from her rich father. What could possibly go wrong? Answer: Everything. Practically from the beginning things begin spiralling out of control – the criminals (who have only just met) develop a deep loathing for each other, the kidnapping is botched and almost immediately the police become involved as they follow a trail of dead bodies across the state. Headed up by Police Chief Marge Gunderson (played absolutely superbly by Frances McDormand) the investigation slowly but inexorably begins to focus in on Jerry’s activities which only make matters worse as he begins to panic.
From the very outset we are presented with a very different kind of film-noir or even neo-noir. Indeed because of the washed out colours against a predominantly white background the movie has, rather tongue in cheek, been called film-blanc. Between the sober music and the hostile weather we imagine that this will be a dark and forbidding movie. Of course in many ways it is – there’s plenty of violence, swearing, threats, a kidnap and plenty of blood all round. But at the same time this is a deeply comic film pointing the finger at the absurdity of the human condition all, as Marge comments later, for a bit of money. Marge is central to the whole film and McDormand deserved the many accolades she received for her portrayal of this down to earth, heavily pregnant and relentless police officer who appears to have seen everything and seems to view crime as deeply disappointing and the people who commit them as worthy of her pity more than anything else. She is obviously bemused by the criminal mind and can’t understand why some people go to great lengths – or great shortcuts – to get ‘things’ whilst outside is a beautiful day they singularly appear to be unable to appreciate.