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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Frances McDormand in Fargo: Not your regular heroine

This year's Oscar nominee Frances McDormand had won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the heavily pregnant and intelligent cop, Marge, in Joel and Ethan Coen's dark comedy Fargo.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: March 4, 2018 9:50:30 am
Frances McDormand in Fargo Farnces McDormand had won an Oscar for her performance in Fargo

There is something about Frances McDormand and her choice of roles. McDormand has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category for her stunning portrayal of a grieving and revenge-seeking mother Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But before the eccentric Mildred, there was Fargo’s Marge, for which McDormand had won an Oscar in 1997. That McDormand is a good actor is not news, but her performance in Fargo was special.

Frances plays police officer Marge Gunderson in the Joel Coen-directed movie. Marge is a heavily pregnant cop, who has a hearty disposition. She is warm, good-natured and comes across as someone you would want to get acquainted with if you met her in person. All things ‘normal’. But what makes her so unusual then? Well, as Joel Coen put it in an earlier interview with Empire, “She wears a funny hat and walks funny but is not a clown…We wanted her as far away as possible from the cliched cop”.

You don’t see many pregnant cops in movies, and so the first and obvious point of Marge is in itself a departure from the routine. The Coen brothers are known for their dark comedies; a dash of realism and a good dose of comedy, to put it simplistically. Marge also has her own set of quirks; just the way she says things, so naturally, and nicely like she really means it (which is a rarity in this day and age) is unique.

She walks funny and speaks in a distinctive manner, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she is a damn good detective in her own right. In a Coen movie, no one is without the proverbial skeleton in the closet. But Marge stands out again, as she is an open book. She is what she portrays herself to be.

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It cannot be emphasised enough how Marge is a cut above the rest. She has real strength of character. Remember the famous Wood Chipper scene of the film, when Marge finds Gaear (Peter Stormare) feeding Carl’s (Steve Buscemi) body into the chipper? Gaear looks up and sees Marge pointing a gun at him, but goes back to doing the unsightly job until she finally points towards the big star in her cap, indicating that she is an officer of the law. The murderer then tries to flee, but Marge pursues the psycho killer on the hard-to-walk-on, snow-filled land. If that’s not character, what is?

Marge is particularly striking because she represents the side of humanity we hope still lives amongst us. She is extraordinary in her ordinariness. A walking contradiction, her warm exterior hides her razor-sharp intellect.

Frances McDormand had said in an interview about her character in the movie that she is “Minnesota nice”. Marge shines in the scene where she tries to comfort her former classmate Mike Yanagita, whose wife had just died. Mike makes moves on her, but Marge shakes off his attempts at establishing something romantic in the gentlest of manners. She is also quite supportive of her husband, who is a failed artist, and she does all this while chasing criminals.

Let’s just put it this way, Marge is not your regular cynical, brooding, manipulative human being. The fact that she strives to stay ‘normal’ in an abnormal world, sets her apart from the crowd.

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