Murder, Martin Freeman and a bit of snow, Christy Ku reviews Channel 4’s darkly comic adaptation of Fargo.
Several things started to attract me to this show; the dark humour, the dramatic trailer, Martin Freeman doing an American accent.
Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) is stuck in his mundane existence as an unsuccessful insurance salesman, and unhappily married to his demanding wife. But with the arrival of hit-man Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) murder comes to the small snowy town. Lester’s encounter with the strange and disturbing man leads him on a path of destruction.
This version of Fargo is a ten part TV remake of the original American film by the Coen brothers. The sinister crime-comedy film was released in 1996, winning Academy awards and BAFTAs.
Now – a confession – I haven’t seen the film. But, whilst I can’t give you a comparison of the film and the TV show, at least this article will be free from ‘which is better the original vs. the remake’ and focus on the show itself.
The show opens with ‘this is a true story’ – which is annoying, because it never is. The story is gripping; the viewer watches the disaster unfold, bit by bit, murder after murder in the small town.
The cinematography is wonderful, the sweeping shots of frozen roads and lakes contrasting with the claustrophobic small town piled with dirty snow.
Freeman’s portrayal of Lester has many mannerisms similar to his other roles as Watson in Sherlock and Bilbo in The Hobbit. He has a talent for playing the underdog, and his performance as Lester is no exception. The character is awkward, passive and rather hopeless. When he comes across his former school bully, Lester puts hospitalises himself without any help.
Thornton’s acting of the hit-man is superb, almost comical until he becomes sinister. Malvo is creepy and strange, yet intriguing, going from discussing whether or not bacteria counts as a pet to calmly listening to the pounding in the car boot.
The two characters are complete opposites, but when their paths meet, Malvo is able to leave him with a chilling monologue;
“The shit they make us eat day after day, the boss, the wife etc, wearing us down. If you don’t’ stand up to it […] you’re just gonna get washed away”.
Fargo captures the darkness of human nature, and how we are all capable of doing terrible things to each other.
Christy Ku, Online Books Editor