Frances McDormand received her second Oscar nomination and only Oscar to date for playing Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police officer investigating in a very odd case in the Best Picture nominee, Fargo. I don't know how much chance she had of winning. I guess she was pretty much the front-runner even though she lost the Globe to Madonna. Still, the other nominees were either too unknown (Blethyn, Scott Thomas and Watson) or not showy enough (Keaton). 1996 was a very unorthodox and interesting line-up without really huge stars.
Fargo is a pretty great movie though I have some minor problems with it. For instance, I think that the solution for the problem is a little bit too sudden and unbelievable. I mean, such a coincidence? But I guess it works because Fargo is quite unusual in itself. The directon of Joel Coen is just wonderful though I'm not sure if he deserved the Oscar over Mike Leigh. We'll see later. The screenplay of the movie is quite great and so is William H. Macy but for me it was Steve Buscemi who really stood out from the cast and he should have received a nomination.
Frances McDormand is an excellent character actress who always gives very great performances in supporting roles. She doesn't play the lead very often and she's not the real lead in Fargo, either. I'm not sure if the category placement for her was right. On the one hand, Margie isn't really the center of the movie and she's just a very entertaining character who makes things very colorful and warm in this cold movie. On the other hand, I couldn't think of anyone else as the leading character of this movie. She actually appears about thirty minutes into the movie and she doesn't really have very much screentime. Interesting enough, people rarely question this leading nomination. I don't think that she had much more time than, say, Patricia Neal in Hud.
That being said, McDormand is just wonderful in this role. I loved the very subtle way that she approached this character. Margie doesn't have loud, over-the-top breakdowns or even huge dramatic scenes. But I wouldn't say that this is a very silent role. The little mannerisms of Margie are just brilliant. Every minute I saw her on screen, I somehow felt so much better. She has this very radiant and warm presence that is really the only pleasant thing about Fargo. One could say that Margie was useless here, but I wouldn't say so. She balances all the terrifying aspects of this story so well and Frances McDormand used every opportunity to do that. To put it more correctly, in the alienated, evil world of Fargo, Margie represents humanity and love. It's lovely that while everybody else is killing others, she is going to give life to someone. Brilliant. I guess, she's more of a symbol and McDormand does it just brilliantly. She perfectly communicated Margie's innocence and incapability of understanding why people are killing for money.
There's so much dramatic weight and true meaning in her scene in the car where she asks the criminal why he did it. We can see all the faces of this character and it's just brilliant. And quite sad, to tell the truth. The lines are rather corny but thanks to McDormand's great delivery they really fit her, so I didn't have a problem with it. And the same goes for her very last scene with her husband. The warmth that McDormand adds to this scene is really touching. Yes, this is what I call a decent life. And McDormand communicated this to the audience terrificly.
The fact that McDormand is also quite hilarious in this part (her deliveries are brilliant) almost totally overshadows the real merits of this performance. Indeed, McDormand's sharp brilliance in the scene where she meets the girls from the bar is impressive. Her face... hilarious. And the same goes for the sequences where she's eating burgers. Again, she's so adorable.
But I don't want to make the mistake of not saying how really, truly wonderful Frances McDormand is in Fargo. She took this very ordinary character (who's actually much more complicated than one would think) added touches of her brilliance and the result was this wonderful, subtle and quite thought-provoking performance. She holds all the moral meanings of Fargo and the way she reveals it is simply perfect. This opinion may not be popular once again, but I just love her.
What do you think? Who should be next? (Emily Watson will be reviewed last to keep the suspense alive)