Sunday, 29 March 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1996: Peter Stormare in Fargo

Peter Stormare did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo.

Now I previously reviewed Steve Buscemi's great work, as the largely incompetent Carl, the one half of two criminals hired by used car salesman Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy), to kidnap his own wife to extort money from his father-in-law, but I was remiss in forgetting Carl's, mostly, silent crime. Stormare's performance is an anti-thesis that I will get to, but it is also brilliant that I will preface, although since he was my runner-up even before this review, so that might be obvious. This is actually one of those interesting performances in that I've enjoyed Fargo multiple times, yet I forget that Stormare is only a few scenes, as he seems such an essential element of the film. This is as his impact is essential, and we must look to Stormare's work for leaving such an impression. This is as his work is almost a silent performance, though the few words he does make leave an incredible impact, Stormare, unlike the rest of the cast has a limited amount of that wonderful Coen dialogue to work with. In fact Stormare more of just has a few lines in total, and a great deal of silence, though this is all he needs to create two different achievements within the film. The first is this is a hilarious performance, oddly enough despite being the most terrifying character, as we find Carl and Gaear, in some ways have more in common with Laurel & Hardy than a Leopold & Loeb. This as we have Buscemi's Carl as the man who never stops talking against Gaear who rarely says a word, unless he deems it essential. The few words being each in themselves idiosyncratic, yet so fascinating of deliveries every time. This in "Where's pancakes house" with his face of sincere questioning then disbelief as Carl doesn't agree to get some proper pancakes at the pancakes house. Stormare's face is something special here, as in a scene like that it is to such great comedy in his nearly dead eyes towards Buscemi, before Carl relents to agree to pancakes after all. He is the fantastic deadpan straight man of sorts Buscemi, like in their later conversation where Carl attempts to get a few words to which Stormare delivers his "Nope" and "I just did" as a fountain of conversation with such beautiful bluntness. This though maintaining this indifference towards slight annoyance at his chattering partner. 

There is something just fascinating yet perfect about how Stormare approaches every scene in creating Gaear as a whole different kind of sort. And initially this seems to be fun and games, in ignoring his partner, berating Jerry briefly for the stupidity of his plan, but then they do kidnap Jerry's wife, and we get part of where Gaear may not be so much fun, though still hilarious. This as when Jerry's wife bites him first to escape him, we get another classic bit of oddness from Stormare in his "I need unguent" that is marvelous by how detached from the situation he is in the scene. This distance, that same detachment, brings upon a more eerie quality however when he finds that much need unguent along with Jerry's wife attempting to hide in a shower. This as he notices her, but with those hollow eyes now finding a more menacing quality within them in that distance Stormare brings. The same distance he brings as he follows Jerry's wife as she falls upon the floor knocking herself out, and Stormare pocks her not as a sadist, but as someone might interact with an object or insect. This strange nature of Gaear coming out more directly, as the two men, with their kidnapped in tow, are stopped on a remote road. Stormare's manner becomes most unnerving as we begin to feel a bit of what he can do. This coming up initial as Carl attempts to bribe the highway patrol officer, leading to Gaear instead to kill the officer without hesitation when that doesn't work. Stormare's way of speaking towards Carl's claim "You'll take care of it" is with a chilling blase quality to it. This as we see only spark of anger, when directly annoyed by Jerry's wife's screeching only as it seems to interfere with him directly in some way. Stormare is terrifying and strangely mesmerizing as the sequence continues, as while Carl is attempting to cover up the murder, two onlookers driving by leaving Gaear to finish the job. This as Stormare portrays Gaear in almost this zen state and quiet determination, where this business seemingly is nothing out of the strict ordinary for him. I especially love, though that might not be the right word, as he catches up with the onlookers who crashed their car. Stormare's is unnerving as his manner is relaxed, his state calm, but calmer than calm. This as we see him particularly look at one of the witnesses stuck within her car. Stormare doesn't smile or wince, he rather seems almost observant of not a man looking at a person, but rather how a man look like something that which he shares no connection. Now I could've sworn there was a great deal more of Stormare after this scene, I mean I could swear it right now, even though he only has 2 brief, 1 relatively brief, and one major scene, all with few words after this pivotal scene. The reason I could still swear it is the impact he leaves nonetheless, and even in these scenes, where we see this horrifying force of evil in Stormare's performance, that nonetheless is captivating. Whether that is as he looks on at, Jerry's wife failing to escape, or Carl's struggle to get a signal on the TV at their cabin hideout. In each moment the power of Stormare's work is evident, and all the greater the more we see him. Although I do have to take one moment to refer to his more comic work in the first half in his one major, albeit short, comic moment later on. This as we see Gaear waiting by watching a Soap Opera, and Stormare's genuine surprised look as Gaear hears the revelation, is pure comic gold. Now though, back to the more fundamental purpose of his work later in the film. Where we have two immediate scenes of Stormare's terror in a way, because of how at ease he is, whether it is mentioning the murder of Jerry's wife, as though he's explaining why he took out the trash, or his killing of Carl as though he's going out to shovel snow. This as we find him that antithesis to the chief investigator of Jerry's scheme, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). Where she is a morally good character, to the point her greatest frustration in the film is shown towards Gaear for doing all his ill-deeds for money even on "such a beautiful day". Where Marge is defined by positivity and a love for life, we have instead Stormare as Gaear as a strictly amoral individual detached from life. This even compared to Jerry and Carl who are too human in how pathetic they are to be pure in their despicable nature. Stormare doesn't make Gaear just a bad man, but rather a fundamentally amoral force within the film. This right down to his "conversation" with Marge, where she questions his actions, and with Stormare there is no regret on his face, or even anger, rather he shows a man whose violent actions where in a way meaningless to him. This is a downright brilliant performance from Peter Stormare, as he is endlessly captivating through so many wordless moments, while being a proper comedic partner to Buscemi, while also wholly finding the needed menace and evil to create the purest villain in the piece.


Luke Higham said...

I see you've given Watson the win.

Aidan Pittman said...

Love this performance as well as Buscemi's, their chemistry is absolutely gold in this film.

Shaggy Rogers said...

Watson wins! Fuck yeah!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

He's incredible here, he's my runner up for the year behind Norton.

Louis: Could you rewatch Primal Fear (if you have time) before you update the overall?

RatedRStar said...

Interesting to see Watson beat McDormand, must have been real close =D.

Louis: What are your top 10 favourite rock bands, if you have ten?

Lucas Saavedra said...

Louis: what are your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Psifonian said...

"We stop at pancakes house."

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Also, not going to lie, "Gaear Grimsud" has to be one of the most ridiculous, and simultaneously sinister character names ever.

Bryan L. said...

RatedRStar: He gave his Top Ten in John Lones review for The Moderns.

RatedRStar said...

ohhh interesting.

Louis Morgan said...


Razor thin margin, McDormand would be my winner on either side of this year, or most years in the 90's.




"What are you nuts, we had pancakes for breakfast"


I think I've pretty much covered everybody.

Mitchell Murray said...

He's great here, and is yet another winning element of this excellent film.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Thoughts on the cinematography of The Killing Fields and The Mission?

Mitchell Murray said...

On another note, I just watched Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” for the first time. It was decent enough I suppose, but I do think it loses a lot of steam following Greenleaf’s murder, and the direction/music were a little overripe for my taste. Also, I just thought the ending was very weak.

Damon - 3
Law - 4
Paltrow - 3.5
Blanchett - 3.5
Davenport - 3
Hoffman - 3
Hall - 3

Louis Morgan said...


The Killing Fields features largely unshowy yet terrific work from Chris Menges. This befitting the films tone and intention well. There really is just one "show off" shot, that being the poster's reference shot, which is a great shot. That though is even within the film's overall style which is the natural style lighting look. This in everything features subdued, however as always, importantly Menges doesn't use this as an excuse to seem lazy. Everything is very well lit, it just appears as though it is whatever the sun or interior lights is doing at the time. This in being precise while seeming just natural. This is further supported by the framing and composition of shots, that captures a ground level approach, but that of a truly brilliant war zone photographer.

The Mission's approach is similar, naturally by Chris Menges working with Joffe again, in going for a naturalistic approach. It is as successful, but an even greater achievement. As this time Menges does so to create an epic grand scale spectacle in terms of the scope. This crafting that honest feeling approach that creates such a tangible sense of place, yet doing so in a way that truly delivers the expansive all encompassing nature of the area. Tremendous work that remarkable combination in seeming both honest to life while also being larger than life.