I am loth to criticise anything associated with the late great Townes Van Zandt and a film that includes both his own version of Buckskin Stallion Blues at the beginning and Amy Anelle’s version at the end is bound to engage my sympathy – initially. However, the more I think about this film the less I like it. It’s entertaining and constantly engrossing but I still left the cinema with a bad taste in my mouth. Fargo it ain’t although it’s set in the same kind of quirky small-town location and has the same actress as main character. It’s a cold confection, lacking the charm of the latter movie. It wasn’t Frances McDorman’s fault – she was superb in the main role as was Sam Rockwell as the red-neck deputy. And Woody Harrelson did his thing as the sheriff – all folksy authenticity. Mind you I don’t know how he came to be married to a young Australian (Abbie Cornish) in Missouri but maybe I missed something. I suppose my major gripe was the whole farcical nature of the enterprise and the lack of reality in the seemingly realistic scenario. I have no problem with farce or black comedy per se, but too many elements in the film didn’t convince me. No mere deputy would be allowed to carry on as Rockwell did without censure from his seemingly decent boss and colleagues. Why were there no repercussions when McDormand assaulted two schoolchildren, attacked the dentist and burnt down the police station. At the very least she would have been held under suspicion for the latter. And to be a little petty, would such a small town have its own advertising agency?
The ostensible cause of the whole ruckus, the rape and murder of McDormand’s daughter, was only briefly and unsympathetically attended to – and never resolved. And why, oh why, expose Peter Dinklage (the dwarf in Game of Thrones) to a cruel and dwarfist vignette where his amatory ambitions were cruelly sneered at and dismissed. I think the bottom line for me is that the film was a series of visually spectacular and dramatic set pieces that didn’t coalesce into a convincing creation. It entertained briefly but irritated long-term. A bit like my relationship with plum pudding – I like the initial taste, the fruity bits and the brandy hit but then it lies leadenly in my stomach for hours.