Allison Tolman is the real reason to watch “Fargo”

5 June 2014

fargo-episode-2-allison-tolman-molly-solversonAt first she seems like she’s going to be just another part of the kitschy Minnesota social landscape as created by the writers of Fargo — a series that uses the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film as a jumping-off point (and visual touchstone) for a different story, which they assert is true. The show tricks you: at first, the character of Molly Solverson seems neither as central  nor as astute a detective as she becomes by episode 2 or 3. But by that time, you’ve sort of fallen in love with her.

Tolman is heavier than most TV actresses — by which, god knows, she probably wears a women’s size 10 (gasp!) — and prone to opening her gorgeous blue eyes just about as wide as they’ll go. She alternates observing a scene with an open mouth, and pursing that mouth in thought and perhaps a little judgment. All of which means that as you start to fall in love with her, her modesty, and her obsessive, perceptive views of the people and crimes around her, you realize that Tolman is not playing this for laughs even as she is trained as a comedian. Rather, we enter into the series via those beautiful eyes and connect to it through her combination of shyness, naïveté, and determination. She brings a soft persuasion to all her scenes, which is hard to do in a room full of Big Actors. fargo_s1_gallery_allisontolman_1200_article_story_largeThe show is getting attention for all its male stars — Billy Bob Thornton as the riveting, mercurial hit man (really: he’s wonderful here); Martin Freeman hamming it up with an implausible Minnesota accent as the hapless Lester Nygaard; the terrific Bob Odenkirk as the dense new chief of police; Colin Hanks as a singularly unlucky Duluth police officer; and Adam Goldberg as a competing hit man who memorably delivers half his lines in American Sign Language.

What I’m saying is that our attention is — and should be — directed at Tolman, who is the real reason why the series works. Freeman’s acting is starting to grow on me, even though I still think he overacts his way through every scene; I don’t understand why Colin Hanks gets so many great roles (well, maybe I do understand); and I feel slightly peeved at the show’s insistence on getting so many yuks from Minnesota lingo and way too many characters with low IQs. But I’ll keep watching for Allison Tolman alone. She is a major discovery, and a major talent. Damn.

8 Responses to “Allison Tolman is the real reason to watch “Fargo””

  1. Servetus Says:

    Hmm. Not watching this b/c I don’t want it ruined. Let me know how it comes out and if it is bearable. The snippet of MF doing MN that I saw was ludicrous.

    • Didion Says:

      Oh, his accent is cringeworthy, and in combination with the heavy-handed north-midwest stereotypes … ugh. You especially will NOT put up with it. (He’s getting better as his character gets more interesting, I’ll give him that.)

      • Servetus Says:

        I caught about 20 min of it last night by accident — I see exactly what you’re saying about her. But the way the accent and the expressions and the behavior are performed they seems like snarky parodies — which was never how I felt about the original film. My opinion of MF continues to fall.

  2. Poppa Zao Says:

    Colin Hanks, though he;s the son of Tom, has a growing career portraying cops and guys next door. Will he prove to have the range and acting chops of his father? Time will tell. Tom Hanks was often dismissed as a lightweight, till the one-two punch of Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

    I’ll watch for Allison Tolman too. If her career takes off I’ll recall it was this blog here where I first learned of her.

    • Didion Says:

      Maybe I shouldn’t be so dismissive — after all, look at how Matthew McConaughey’s acting has ratcheted so far up in the last few years — but so far he just seems like a generic sidekick kind of actor to me, except for his spectacular luck with prominent roles.

      But Tolman! what a find she is.

  3. FD Says:

    I don’t know if she’s the real reason to watch — Malvo’s lines are incredibly well written and beautifully delivered by Thorton, But Tolman is the only grounded true-to-life character in this totally outrageous,but supposedy true story.I can’t say for sure if I’m liking Molly the character or Tolman, the actress, but without her earnest presence, Fargo would be too conceited for me to keep coming back for another episode.

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