Neither does Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud having sex with prostitutes in a dive motel (followed, naturally, by a post-coital viewing of The Tonight Show). What these scenes do, however, is set an unprecedented level of character development that many filmmakers deem too insignificant to highlight. When you go back and rewatch Fargo (and really, there’s never a bad time to go back and rewatch Fargo), keep track of how long Frances McDormand is in the film. I’d venture a guess that McDormand’s total amount of screentime ranks lowest among all of the actresses who have won the Best Actress Oscar. I mention this because, despite the fact that she really isn’t in the movie much, we know everything there is to know about Marge Gunderson.
That was an incredibly long-winded, ass-backwards way of backing into the scene I want to highlight, but I feel it is important to make mention of an aspect that’s often overlooked when discussing the film. Fargo is a great movie, and its many, brief interludes of character development are what make it that.
Which is probably why, in a film filled with endless amounts of pathetic desperation, I’m drawn to the moment that defines idiotic hopelessness in a way I’ve never seen a movie encapsulate.
The deal was simple: Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare) were hired by Jerry (William H. Macy), to kidnap Jerry’s wife, Jean, so that Jerry could collect the ransom money from his father-in-law, Wade, a rich asshole who detests Jerry. When it’s finally time to swap Jean for the dough, Wade shows up at the meet instead of Jerry, which infuriates Carl to no end. Within minutes, half of Carl’s face has been blown off and Wade lays dead on the top floor of a parking garage.
He walks over to a fence line a few yards away, gets down on his knees and begins digging a hole in the snow with a tiny, red ice scrapper. Once the hole is dug, he places the loot in the ground and begins covering it with snow. Once buried, we’re privy to film’s best, most comical moment. Buscemi, in a fantastic bit of emotional expression, looks down the fence line: snow and fence. He turns his head and looks the other way: snow and fence. It’s all the same, for miles on end. He slams the red scrapper into the snow to mark where the loot is, stands up, studies his work, and walks away.
This scene, as you may know, was made famous after the media went batshit crazy when Takako Konishi was found dead in the snow near Fargo in 2001. Media outlets reported that Konishi apparently made the trip from Japan to find the buried money depicted in the film, which was ultimately wildly inaccurate. At any rate, Fargo is (by far) one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, for scenes precisely like this one.
It’s best to summarize the scene in Carl’s own words. Upon discovering how much money he’s really in possession of, Carl, through his half-mangled face, quietly blurts, “Jeshsush Sshrist. Jeshsush fucskem Sshrist.”