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FAQ for
Fargo (1996) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents


The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Fargo can be found here.

No. The "this is a true story" opening is not true, but was included by Joel and Ethan Coen to set a tone for the story. After all, at the end of the credits, one can see the standard "This movie is fictional..." legal clause.

However...

There were two separate cases, one in the 1960s and one in the 1970s, in Minnesota that bore many similarities to the storyline of Fargo.

They are discussed in the trivia section, and as the Coen brothers are native Minnesotans they would have been aware of the cases, two of the most famous in Minnesota criminal history. Read the trivia section above to find out more.

Maybe there is something to those cases mentioned above. But, the Coen brothers were mainly influenced by the 1986 murder of Helle Crafts, in Connecticut. Her husband murdered her, froze the body, dismembered the corpse with a chainsaw, then finally put the pieces through a woodchipper, then scattered the remains that came out of the woodchipper. This same case also had an influence on a late 1980s horror movie called Woodchipper Massacre.

No. A story appearing on The Guardian website confirms that the rumor of a Japanese woman—Takako Konishi—dying because she believed the story of Fargo to be real and subsequently froze to death searching for the case of money is simply untrue. It seems more plausible and believable that she did indeed die for the love that she had lost, as is suggested by the letter received by her parents, weeks after her death. More information can be found here.

It's never fully explained in the movie, but there are subtle hints that the scene did have a significant role in the plot; Mike's fragile emotional state obviously startles Marge. After her friend informs her about Mike's problems and the fact that he was never married to Linda as he said, you can see that she becomes very sad and concerned about him. This is most evident in the scene where she is eating Hardee's in her car. As she is thinking about this, her mind apparently wanders off into other areas including the case she is working on. At the very end of that scene, you can see a slight but noticeable expression on her face that indicates a light bulb just went off in her head. This is because she has connected Mike's frantic behavior with the similar, though much less severe, behavior by Jerry in her first meeting with him. You will recall that Jerry displayed a certain amount of nervousness that would have illustrated to someone looking closely that he was a bit panicked (for example, pausing and remarking about Brainerd instead of answering her question about whether a vehicle had been stolen). Marge apparently didn't notice it at the time but after thinking about her encounter with Mike she is then able to connect the dots. Soon after, she goes back to speak with Jerry again.

It is also thought that Marge, although being an experienced police officer, realizes she may not always know when she is being lied to. After discovering that everything Mike said to her was a lie, she questions her police work and thinks that maybe Jerry was lying to her as well. This is why she goes back to question Jerry again.

Let's do a little character evaluation on Jerry:

1. Jerry is shown to be spineless, inept and incompetent in pretty much everything he tries. He is basically a hapless loser who tries but just can't get anything done right. The Coen Brothers have described Jerry as an "amateur criminal". This is first evidenced in the scene where Jerry is finalizing a sale for a new car to a couple and the man is infuriated that Jerry added the $500 TruCoat onto the $19,500 car and charged him for it even though the man specifically stated he didn't want it. Instead of Jerry conceding and taking the cost off the man's bill, he says he'd go talk to his boss about it. However seeing as Jerry is the boss (he later tells Marge that he is the sales manager), we see that he steps into the break-room to talk to a co-worker to make it seem like he just spoke to "his boss". When he comes back,Jerry says he could get $100 knocked off the cost of the TruCoat, infuriating his customer even further.

2. We also see that Jerry's father-in-law Wade, who owns the car dealership Jerry works at, practically despises him and makes little effort to hide it. Wade does not like Jerry because he is aware of Jerry's craftiness or of the thought that Jerry may have married his daughter, Jean, just because he is wealthy, which is later shown that with the exception of his and Jean's son, Scott, Jerry shows little or no concern or affection for both his father-in-law or his own wife.

3. So we can assume Jerry was likely involved in some sort of business scheme or schemes where he lost a lot of money, because he apparently didn't know what he was himself getting into. It is speculated that sometime before the events in the film, he created fake invoices for vehicles he "sold" at the dealership even though they didn't actually exist.

4. Jerry sent the sold invoices along with a insurance loan request off to the dealership finance company with illegible VIN numbers... somehow hoping they wouldn't notice. The finance company, GMAC, calls Jerry at least twice on-camera to confront him about the accounting irregularities and wanted the VIN numbers as evidence of the sales or else they would pull the loans on the vehicles which total $320,000. The reasons for Jerry doing this remain unknown. Speculation from various viewers say that Jerry probably embezzled money from the dealership bank accounts and then borrowed the money from GMAC to replace the money he stole. Another speculation is that Jerry wanted the $320,000 loan to pay off other creditors he owes money too, or that he either spent or gambled the $320,000 loan away for personal use (though there is nothing in the film to suggest that Jerry has a gambling problem).

5. Clearly, Jerry knew that this plan only had a limited run so, through the association of a mechanic employee and ex-convict, Shep Proudfoot, Jerry meets and hires Grimsrud and Showalter to kidnap his wife in order to ask for a ransom of $80,000 from Jerry's father-in-law which Jerry will split with the kidnappers so Jerry could show as proof of car sales for GMAC. Though Jerry tries to call off the kidnapping at one point because he thinks that a real estate deal he brings to Wade's attention will get him out of the bind he is in financially. But Wade takes the deal solely for himself and offers Jerry a measly finder's fee. Jerry is too late to call off the kidnapping anyway and so Jerry tells Wade that the ransom is $1,000,000 (so that Jerry can use $320,000 of it to pay back GMAC when they demand their money back, and probably to spend the rest for personal use).

6. Through a course of events, which includes Grimsrud and Showalter shooting and killing a Minnesota State Police trooper who pulled them over for not having temporary vehicle tags on their car (followed by Grimsrud chasing down and shooting two passing motorists who see Showalter moving the trooper's body off the road), Showalter calls Jerry and says he wants the entire $80,000 ransom, leaving Jerry with nothing. Of course everyone knows that Jerry is in no position to negotiate, threaten or demand anything from Showalter and Grimsrud. Being inept and having poorly thought out of this kidnapping plan, Jerry doesn't have anything on the kidnappers to use for leverage, but they have everything on Jerry, as Grimsrud and Showalter know that Jerry personally met and hired them to kidnap his wife and if the police should capture them first, they can always rat on Jerry by claiming that he was the mastermind of this whole thing. Jerry knows that he has no choice but to agree to any demands the kidnappers threaten him with.

7. Once again, this plan backfires on Jerry because his father-in-law knows how unreliable Jerry is and doesn't trust him with the ransom money (rightfully so) and insists on going to the exchange himself. Jerry, being spineless and afraid of his father-in-law, does not insist on going in his place or even going with him, even though he also knows that Showalter is also very pissed off. For some reason, Jerry decides to go to the meeting anyways and he finds Wade's body, which he puts in his car trunk (and possibly he knows that Wade is dead as he's entering the parking garage, given that he passes a bloodied Carl going there). After this, Jerry goes back into work as if everything was hunky-dory until Marge goes back to interview him again. Jerry panics and flees the scene. He is eventually apprehended at a motel in North Dakota. As a final irony, Jerry, being incompetent to the end, uses the same "Jerry Anderson" alias that he uses when checking into the Fargo, North Dakota inn where he first meets Grimsrund and Showalter, thus enabling the police to easily track him down.

Carl Showalter intended to keep the rest of the money for himself which is precisely why he buried it. The shots showing the fence on the left and right show that he did not have any type of identifying marker to find the money again. This is why he sticks the windshield ice scraper into the ground. Carl's plan was to hide the money, return with the $80,000 to split evenly, then to take the car and return to the spot where he buried it to reclaim the remaining $920,000 giving him a grand total of $960,000 and Grimsrud would have never been any the wiser.

At the end of the film, Showalter now has $1,000,000. Of course, instead of telling Grimsrud about this, he takes out $80,000 in order to bring to Grimsrud to split with him, as Grimsrud is only expecting a cut of $40,000. As far as Grimsrud knows, Showalter is making good on their arrangement. Showalter says he's taking the car they took for the job and that Grimsrud could have his old truck and they must part ways. Grimsrud says they need to split the car by Showalter paying Grimsrud for half the car's value if he wants the car for himself. Showalter, infuriated with the notion, reminds Grimsrud that he took a bullet in the face picking up the ransom, and threatens Grimsrud by reminding him that he still has a gun. This prompts Grimsrud to run outside and kill Showalter with an axe and dispose of his body in a wood chipper, leaving him with all $80,000.

Many people would wonder why would Showalter bother arguing with Grimsrud about paying him out of his cut when he's got another $920,000 buried in the snow to pick up later that Grimsrud would never know about. Basically what it comes down to is a clear and simple case of greed from both men. Showalter doesn't want to give any more money to Grimsrud than the agreed upon amount because he feels he did all the work and took a bullet across the face for his troubles, while Grimsrud simply looked after Jerry's wife. In the end, Grimsrud couldn't even do that and decided to kill her. Even still, Grimsrud wanted a bigger cut by making a case of the new car that Jerry left them and wanted Showalter to pay for half the car's value. While Grimsrud barely speaks throughout the film, it's obvious that he's a psychopath and has no qualms about killing anyone so it's possible that he was planning on killing Showalter anyway just to steal his half of the $80,000, although it's interesting to note that Grimsrud didn't seem intent on killing Showalter until after Showalter started threatening him.

Keep in mind as well that both Grimsrud and Showalter are petty criminals, and that their status as such may be the result of them viewing the world from a perspective that differs from that of the average person, as well as an inflated sense of entitlement and tendency to attach an out-sized significance to the kind of affront that the average person would find irritating but nonetheless dismiss relatively quickly (in other words, an inability to "keep things in perspective"). There are multiple, even more absurd examples in the film this mindset, including in the opening scene during the discussion about whether the agreed-on meeting time in the bar had been 7:30 or 8:30, Showalter's outrage over the $4 charge to exit the airport parking lot (and apparent need to "get even" with the lot cashier by insulting him), and so on.

It's never known for certain, but it appears he either split her head open on the side of the countertop, or possibly slashed her throat and the blood seen on the counter is arterial spray. He could even have shot her in the head at point-blank range with the pistol he'd used to kill the trooper. Some viewers thought that Grimsrud killed her by sticking her head in the oven because the oven door was open. But the oven was turned on and the door was open simply to give off heat to try and warm up the cabin.

There are 18 "yeah" and 181 "yah" said throughout the movie. Total of 199.

It's left buried in the snow with nobody knowing it was there. However in the first season of the TV series Fargo (2014–) on FX, it's revealed that some days later after the events in the feature film, a down on his luck businessman, Stavros Milos, pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of a nervous breakdown to pray to God for help. He looks towards the fence and sees the ice scraper buried in the snow. He finds the money (containing $920,000 in cash) and uses it to invest in a supermarket chain, which makes him a millionaire. He credits his finding the money as a miracle from God.

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