Originally Posted by Bailey
I don't really think ignorance or stupidity is an excuse for Jerry. Is not giving a shit if you hurt someone to get what you want really any better than actively enjoying hurting them? The film has some fun at Jerry's ineptitude, but he's not retarded. He's not incapable of knowing the basic difference between right and wrong, and that his actions could have dire consequences. There's no indication he feels the slightest bit bad for anyone but himself. Even his own son is a total afterthought.
I suppose you could look at Jerry as this hopelessly naive guy who goes around in a fog, and the tragedy that unfolds is a result of that. That he's literally so dumb he doesn't know how hiring strange men to kidnap his wife could possibly end up hurting his family. But, for me, that makes the movie less interesting.
I really, REALLY hope that not a single damned word I wrote on the guy was in ANY way taken as some manner of "defense" for the character. Lundegaard is as FAR from a "likable" character as they get. Regardless of whether his actions stem from just pure stupidity, something inherently more sinister, something in between the two, or what-the-fuck-ever, his actions ARE ultimately evil and certainly bring a tremendous deal of evil down on a whole lot of innocent people.
The ONLY thing I was even remotely arguing was that I could KINDA see how someone might view him in a SOMEWHAT vaguely more favorable-ish light than the more outright violent and murderously psychotic and immediately dangerous and volatile Grimsrud. I could SEE mind you, not necessarily AGREE with. I understand the viewpoint, even if I don't personally feel it. Which I mostly don't.
I DO however think that Jerry IS in fact THAT fucking retarded. That he IS walking around his whole life in a complete fog of simply not thinking about what happens to others around him when he does something. The way Macy plays him, I just don't get any kind of sinister, calculating vibe off of him the way it (seems like) some people in this thread are making it sound like. All I see is genuine, honest to god, complete fucking stupidity. As I said, he's Dubya not Satan.
Via Macy's performance, I see a kind of small town pettiness and materialistic greed and envious superficiality ("My father in law has and makes more money than I do and can afford nicer things than my already nice enough things: I can't have that!") that's taken to such a ludicrous extreme and further fed on by such an incredible dimness and intellectual incuriosity that like I said, the degree of ignorance then becomes its own kind of callousness. Its callousness brought on by the fact that he's an absurdly dim bulb, not by the fact that he's some twisted sociopath. I just don't get that off of Macy's performance. But its STILL callousness all the same, regardless of its origin. I look at Macy's Jerry and I see clueless naivety taken to such absurd lengths that it results in catastrophe and misery and death for a lot of undeserving bystanders.
And I very well made the point repeatedly about how much of an afterthought his son was to him: that's a HUGE factor in how unlikable and unsympathetic he ultimately is when push comes to shove. But like I said, when he sees his son crying for the first time, there IS a registered look of genuine horror on his face like "Oh shit, I didn't even THINK about it from THIS angle". Its STILL cruel and twisted and evil that he didn't AT ALL think of his kid when he concocted this stupid, idiotic, hair brained scheme (borne of childish jealousy since like I said, it doesn't even factor in to him that his family is getting on JUST FINE as they are already). Of fucking COURSE it is. But it wasn't an INTENTIONAL "I'm out to hurt my son" or even an "I don't care what happens to my son" sort of thing. I think that either view is giving the character's intellect WAY more credit than what the movie itself is (rather blatantly) trying to get across to us about how stupid he is.
In your interpretation, when Jerry cooked up the kidnapping scheme he either considered but set aside whatever impact it might have on his son, or he didn't think of it it because he's just that damned Satanically, cartoonishly evil and greedy. And I'M saying that both the movie and Macy's performance are CLEARLY telling us that its neither of these things because this is clearly a guy who simply does not have the critical thinking skills required to be that DELIBERATELY callous and twisted. His callousness and twistedness instead are incidental consequences of just how fucking stupid he is.
When Jerry first sees his kid crying Macy DOES play the scene like Jerry is JUST now realizing the true ramifications of what he's just done, and he certainly feels at least SOMETHING for his kid NOW that he has no choice but to look the consequences of his actions square in the eye (since like I said, I see Lundegaard as being someone who only sees the world around him strictly in terms of what's immediately in front of his face at that exact second without the slightest thought for anything remotely peripheral).
This is all totally subjective semantics that can be argued a million different ways, and a lot of it is inference from the acting than anything else. But the point is, no, I don't find Jerry in any way a "sympathetic" or "redeemable" character. But I also don't see him as this cold, calculating figure. I see him as small-town ignorance and pettiness taken to its most ugly and hideous extremes. Which is STILL evil, just a different category of evil than the two criminals he hires to do the dirty work (who are both common, garden variety scum of about normal enough intelligence, or maybe just below).
And I disagree completely that this makes him any less interesting in any way. If anything, its all the more befitting of Fargo's whole "downhome folksiness" aspect that's such an overpowering part of the film's makeup. Lundegaard is the darkest, most twisted aspects of that "simple-minded smalltown regular Joe with a wife, kid, and nice house and okay job"... with an emphasis on the "simple-minded" part and the inherent dangers that that aspect of the stereotype represents. He's a man so stupid and naive and blind to both the world around him and the consequences of his actions, that it results in a series of absurdly tragic and senseless murders.
That to me, within the framework of Fargo's whole "small-town" theme, makes him a much MORE unique and interesting character (not to mention more fitting to the film itself) than just some typically selfish, greedy guy who's greediness just comes from a normal sociopathically numb and uncaring apathy about his family and whatever it is he does. We've seen that character done a million different ways in a million different movies. This is something with a shade more nuance to it, nuance that's very much in-line with the thematics of the film and its setting and other characters. And again, that's NOT a moral defense of him. Please, please, PLEASE don't take it that way. I'm not a ghoul here. I'm just classifying his brand of shit headed evil more under the Sarah Palin variety than what seems to be a desire here to paint him as a much more mundane sort of shit heel.
This by the way, is made all the more interesting and layered by the fact that Jerry's brand of small town stupidity is clashed and contrasted directly against Marge's incredibly sharp detective's intellect, which is obscured on a surface-most level by the same superficial qualities through which most people would judge and write her off as being no sharper a pencil than Jerry based on similar outside qualities like her manner of speaking and the way she caries herself so pleasantly and unassumingly.
The immediate stereotype based on those superficial qualities is that she's another small-town hayseed... and of course, unlike Lundegaard who is that very stereotype taken so far off the deep end it becomes something incredibly twisted and fucked up, Marge couldn't be ANYTHING but and is Lundegaard's complete antithesis in just about every way possible. Lundegaard takes the ignorant small-town stereotype and runs with it as far as it'll go and THEN some into an incredibly fucked up new dimension of horribleness. Marge goes the exact fucking opposite way with it and subverts it in every way possible (to the point of being one of the coolest and most admirably well realized and progressively written female protagonists of 90's cinema even).
Y'know the more I think about it, MAN this is a great fucking movie.
Edited by Jaquio - 4/20/12 at 6:13pm