Crime is an endless loop, just like the job market today. In every ad, they ask for someone with experience in the job, but to get that experience you require said job, which you cannot have because you don’t possess said experience, because you can’t get said job, because you can’t get said experience… you see, a loop. You can only break the loop either if you’re connected or if you start your own business. Crime works the same way. Either you’re Corleone’s nephew, or you have an acute entrepreneurial facet. Our hero, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) belongs to the latter category, and we’re bound to find out how he fares in his unlawful debut.
His project relies on keeping Jean, the wife, in a confined space for an undetermined time, which I see as a small change in the current state of things, since she’s a housewife. He hires two unlawful scoundrels, Showalter (Buscemi) and Grimsrud (Stormare), one of which Proudfoot vouches for, to kidnap her wife, in order to get a ransom of 80 thousand dollars paid by the wife’s father, which should be split in half. The plan is more intricate than this, but all intricacy is to its loss, rather than benefit. Obviously, the plan goes south – cue to insert a pun referencing the state where this takes place, North Dakota – and Marge, the local police chief, is in charge of figuring out why three corpses are lying around in peaceful Brainerd, Minnesota.
Interior – Police Chief’s bedroom
The phone rings at 3 a.m., to inform her of a triple homicide that needs solving. Norm, the attentive husband is adamant on fixing her eggs, because she needs breakfast. Everybody needs breakfast, all the more if you’re pregnant. Before she leaves, Norm goes outside to lend her a hand, because “prowler needs a jump”.
This scene is where the tone of the movie is set. After witnessing a cold blooded shooting, and Buscemi’s face sprayed with blood we are presented to Marge, a wife and future mother, folksy written all over her face, and demeanor, who is supposed to solve that violent crime. Never a law enforcement agent looked so positively gleeful, and never a pregnant lady looked so calmly menacing. And never those two characters were one.
Everything about this movie looks, and feels, and breaths small-town. I would say it looks like a rural painting, if that was something that existed. The dialogues lack the sophistication of the work of someone like Tarantino (we don’t expect Brainerd locals to exude such eloquence as Tarantino’s characters), but they’re up to par in everything else. They’re wholesome and quirky, and seem to be as distanced from the cruelty that’s surrounds them as they can possibly be. Some of them even get to be memorable.
I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there, Lou.
The contrasts between following scenes are also memorable. In one moment we see the a man poking an unconscious woman and in the next a formal meeting takes place; someone takes a life and in the next scene we see paintings of still life; and in the most memorable, the two scoundrels are loudly defiling two prostitutes, and in the next frame we see the four of them quietly watching “The Tonight Show”. Those contrasting scenes bring a smile to my face, almost the same I get have when I’m before beautifully crafted phrases in a good book. They’re beautifully crafted frames in a movie, and they come by less often.
In 1996, Roger Ebert said movies like these are the reason he loves movies. I have little to add.