“Say, Lou, didya hear the one about the guy who couldn’t afford personalised plates, so he went and changed his name to J3L2404?”
“Yah, that’s a good one.”
Fargo concerns a convoluted kidnapping plot filled with misunderstandings, mayhem and the occasional murder, and the film tells its story simply, without bold flourishes, letting the story speak for itself. It’s the perfect marriage of setting, character and narrative. Minnesota, in the depths of stark-white winter, fits the dark comedic tone of the film effectively, as the camera glides across fields of snow with the pace of someone trudging through a blizzard.
The above quote captures the Coen brothers’ take on humour in Fargo, where humour is found as easily in an awkward interaction in a restaurant as a body being fed into a woodchipper, and the best response is a good-natured “Yah, that’s a good one” rather than a belly laugh. They’re confident enough in the strength of the material and their actors (the cast is well-suited to the task, with Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy and Frances McDormand all putting in excellent work) to let it speak for itself without unnecessary adornment or embellishment. In Fargo’s simplicity lies its strength.