Fargo is one of the best–if not the best–films made by the Coen Brothers. It’s a black comedy about murder and greed that takes place in Minnesota, a place known for its cheerful people and savage winters. It’s inspired a TV show based on the film on the FX Channel, as well as numerous other TV crime series and movies. Despite the solemn pre-credits explanation that Fargo was based on a true story, it was a work of fiction. In 2001, a young Japanese woman, thinking that Fargo was a true story, set out to find the suitcase loaded with money that Steve Busemi’s character buried in the snow by a fence at one point in the film (he did such a haphazard job in burying the cash that it would most likely have been discovered the next spring when the snow melted).
Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) stars here as a fictionalized version of the real life woman, whose name in the film is Kumiko, and she’s superb. Kikuchi plays her character as a young woman with a very tenuous grasp on reality who is slowly falling through the cracks. She works as an office girl in Tokyo for a lout of a boss who uses her to get his dry cleaning and other chores done. When he’s not using her as his personal slave, he ridicules Kumiko for being too old (she’s only twenty nine!), and introduces a new, younger assistant who will clearly take over Kumiko’s job. But the main thing that keeps Kumiko going is her obsession over finding the money that was buried somewhere in the snow laden fields of the U.S.
When her boss gives her a company credit card to buy his wife a gift with, Kumiko sees her chance to finally go to America and start her search. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter almost feels like a black comedy in tone, but the mood becomes somber when it’s made clear that Kumiko is a woman who is in serious need of help. Still, the filmmakers manage to take advantage of every comedic moment, and the result is a thoroughly fascinating film that’s anchored by a wonderful performance from Kikuchi. Despite her strange behavior, you can’t help but feel sympathetic for Kumiko, and that’s thanks to Kikuchi’s powerhouse acting. While Kumiko The Treasure Hunter makes for a great double bill with Fargo, it also stands on its own as a gripping look at the sometimes deadly consequence of obsession.