My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1996: Frances McDormand in "Fargo"

When Frances McDormand accepted her Oscar, she said what a great year this was for the Best Actress category and how all the nominated women had the choice to play such “rich, complex female characters”. While I used to think that Frances had to be joking because I never thought of Marge Gunderson as a complex character, time has helped me to fully appreciate her performance and I came to the conclusion that she was, indeed, right.

Fargo tells the story of Jerry Lundegaard, an eternal loser who hires two gangsters to kidnap his wife – he wants his father-in-law to pay the ransom and then split it with the two criminals. Unfortunately, like everything else that Jerry touches, the whole plan turns into a disaster and various dead bodies are the result. Finally, about 30 minutes into the movie, Frances McDormand enters the scene as very pregnant and matter-of-fact police officer Marge Gunderson.

On the surface, Marge Gunderson is a character full of stereotypes, talking with an exaggerated accent and apparently rather slow and dim-witted. But Frances McDormand is able to show many layers in Marge. She shows that there is something else under Marge’s constant smile and nice behavior – a deep understanding. She sees the world in a rather simple way but more often than once, she is right and able to combine very quickly. In only a few moments she has observed the crime scene of a triple homicide and immediately drew a right conclusion about what exactly happened here. Frances McDormand shows that there is a reason why Marge is a police officer – she is much more intelligent than one would expect at the first sight and able to handle scenes of interrogations very professionally. She always acts nice and friendly (but not because she wants to get the people’s confidence, but rather because she is always nice and friendly) but in the scene with Shep Proudfoot, Marge can change from nice to slick to nice again in just a few seconds.

Frances shows that Marge is a simple, but also very positive person who, even despite all the crimes around her, believes in the good and honesty of people. That’s why Marge is a little naïve sometimes, but this naivety is not something that stops her from seeing the overall truth. This extraordinary case causes Marge to grow but in a very unexpected way. The meeting with her old friend from High School who turns out to have been a big liar, makes Marge aware that sometimes people lie, simple as that. Yes, Marge is a little naïve but Frances McDormand shows that this doesn’t mean that she is dumb – Marge is simply too nice for this dark world. But with brilliant acting choices, Frances McDormand portrays that this niceness does not prevent Marge from solving this bloody case. Her absolutely calm, matter-of-fact reaction to the sight of a man being put in a wood chipper is the best example – no screaming, no panic, just a slight look of disgust and then a professional “Police!”, just what we would expect from Marge.

That’s why her scene in the car, when she is saying “I just don’t understand it” is so great. It’s true, Marge doesn’t understand. She can’t understand why people would kill for money, why all these terrible things happened. But even though she might not be able to understand them, she is perfectly fit to solve them. She doesn’t let her cases influence her personally, she always keeps a professional distance. When she tells the killer “There is more to life than a little money, you know”, then Marge is not joking with him – she believes that and that way, she is able to find more happiness in her quiet home and (usually) quiet life than all the other people in the movie, who dream of wealth and success, can even imagine.

Frances McDormand combines all these various aspects of Marge brilliantly, but she does much more than that: she creates one of the most hilarious and unique characters in movie history. From her first “For Pete’s Sake” to her last “Oh Jeez”, Marge is a living stereotype, but so real and warm at the same time that the viewer never looks down on her or laughs at her. Frances McDormand’s deadpan delivery of so many funny lines with a perfect accent, facial work and a constant smile – everything works perfectly and creates a woman who is both a character and a caricature at the same time.

Frances McDormand gives an unforgettable performance and this also makes so many of her lines unforgettable:
"You betcha, yah!"
"Ah, hon, ya got Arby's all over me."
"No, I just think I'm gonna barf... Well, that passed. Now I'm hungry again."
"I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou."
"You have no call to get snippy with me; I'm just trying to do my job here."
"So, you were havin' sex with the little fellow then."

Frances McDormand gives a performance that is real, unique, hilarious, intelligent, memorable and touching. For this, she gets

1 comment:

joe burns said...

I bet she'll be two or three. It depends on what you think of Blethyn. But we all know who will win............