Fargo ★★★★½

“People need the little stamps.”

I remember reading a review of this film once that said the easiest way to upset a film critic was to ask him what Fargo was about. This confused me at the time, and it confuses me now. Back then I assumed I just wasn’t smart enough to understand what the film was really about, or even understand exactly what I was supposed to be confused by. I realize now if the review actually had a point, perhaps it wasn’t in the way it intended. The simple truth is that morality tales as clearly drawn and humbly affirming as this one just don’t show up very often, and when they do, their earnesty, their gentle simplicity, can take you by surprise. Goodness is difficult to understand from the outside, in the same way that wisdom struggles to be fathomed by ignorance. At the end of the film, as Marge sits and considers the strange evil she’s watched unfold, all she can say is, “I just don’t understand it.” Because, of course, it works both ways. She is good, and so evil to her is irrational, incomprehensible. When faced with it, all she can do is gently scold—“There’s more to life than a little money, you know”—before offering something better: “And here ya are. And it’s a beautiful day. I just don’t understand it.” I hope that one day I don’t, either.

(The Coen Canon, 6/18)

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