This darkly comedic crime thriller from Joel and Ethan Coen is a real doozy, don'tcha know?
Set around Minnesota and North Dakota in the winter of 1987, this film both embraces and satirizes the Minnesota upbringing of its writers/producers/directors.
William H. Macy is Jerry Lundegaard- a sad sack ineffectual car salesman who is hard up for money. His wife and her dad (Jerry's boss) are both well off, but, even if they knew he needed the money, they probably wouldn't give it to him anyway, His solution is to enlist a criminal version of the odd couple (chatter box Steve Buscemi, and silent psycho Peter Stormare) to kidnap Jerry's wife, then use the ransom as payment for both them and himself.
Things get complex, and especially messy when the plan doesn't go as designed, and blood becomes shed. To make things even more interesting, small town sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) gets thrown into the mix, and her down to Earth, smart approach really adds layers of warmth and heart, made even more poignant by the fact that she's also 7 months pregnant.
There's already been so much written about this, that I really don't have anything new to contribute. It holds up to its reputation, and is a real masterpiece of writing, direction, and acting. I can't really describe it: everything just clicks, and there's a nice balance to the laughs and bloodshed. The characters and themes are interesting and thought provoking, and come on, Marge Gunderson is undeniably one of the coolest and greatest characters ever created. I'm so happy this film nabbed the Bros. Coen a writing Oscar, as well as one for McDormand's superb acting. It's a shame.
Like all Coen Brothers films, the cinematography and music are brilliant, and, while complex, the film is really fairly easy to follow. It's a shame this lost Best Picture to The English Patient, because this was the film that deserved it more.
Bottom line: this is a must see, and its place on all the various types of best of lists is absolutely justified. Truly a great American classic.