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The Big White

Robin Williams’ enormous talent sets the tone for this wonderfully amusing black comedy set in a landscape of snow, and nothing but snow, in the northern reaches of Alaska. The resemblance to the Coen brothers Fargo is inescapable, especially as early on a female cop does a perfect five-second imitation of Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning role. But the cold and snow, the corpse which must be disposed of in order to be found, the wacky crooks, the “dead” brother who isn’t, and the superb Holly Hunter, hilarious and charismatic as a woman suffering from a psychosomatic version of Tourette’s Syndrome (or maybe it isn’t psychosomatic…), deliver such a wealth of wonderful possibilities that it is a credit to the great script that the characters have depth and the movie is filled with warmth and love. It is that rare film which amuses without resorting to slapstick or scatological humor, charms without being cloying and is so intelligent that, like Fargo, you walk out wanting to go right back and see it all over again.

Paul Barnell (Williams) is a poor schmuck whose tiny travel business in a small town in the snowy reaches of Alaska is nearly bankrupt. His beloved wife Margaret (Hunter) is psychologically challenged, to put it mildly, and the health insurance refuses to pay for treatment. In desperation, Paul tries to cash in the million dollar life insurance policy on his brother, Ramond (Woody Harrelson), who has been missing for five years, but the insurance company insists that either Raymond’s body must be found or two more years must pass before Raymond can be declared legally dead. Then Paul just happens upon an unknown corpse…

There are many twists and turns to the plot, a great pair of totally inept killers looking for their misplaced corpse, and the perfectly conceived insurance agent (Giovanni Ribisi) who smells something foul and is determined to get to the bottom of it, dangerously neglecting his cute girlfriend, Tiffany (Alison Lohman) and a lot more. I couldn’t possibly recount all of it, even if I wanted to. Just go see it – you’ll love it. (Adele Riepe)

 

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