Problem #1: Tonal and Directorial Inconsistency
I’m going to post a rant about Fargo soon (yes, again), but I’ll post a sneak preview as to one of the reasons why I can’t stand this movie.
One of the biggest issues with the film is that it’s highly inconsistent in terms of tone and direction. Sometimes the direction is so inconsistent that it works at cross purposes with what the story is trying to do, so people have a hard time making a connection between several scenes. The Mike Yanagita subplot is a perfect example.
How so? Well, what is the thing that people most talk about regarding Fargo? They always talk about how over the top and in some cases ridiculous the Midwestern accents sound. The accents in the movie were so exaggerated that even Midwesterners, born and bred, were confused, annoyed or even offended by what they were hearing.
Just as the characters couldn’t have looked or sounded weirder in the movie, along came a Japanese-American character who talked in an even more far-fetched accent straight out of a Prairie Hometown Companion bit. So, first you had these oh, so white characters sounding goofy and then you had this Asian-American guy sounding goofy.
Given all that, how do you think audiences took the Mike Yanagita scenes? Simple. Moviegoers just assumed it was another scene in this movie beating a joke into the ground as far as it could go, as in, “If you thought it was funny seeing white people talk in this weird, exaggerated accent, you’re just gonna love hearing and seeing an Asian guy do it! Isn’t it funny? Isn’t it cute? Isn’t it adorable? Oh, look–he’s even saying, ya, too! What a knee slapper!”
On top of coming across as being played for laughs, the subplot seemed to be there to add even more color to this absurdist universe where everyone talked and sounded like Ole and Lena. In other words, it comes across as there for the sake of worldbuilding, not in service of any plot. So, by the time the reveal about Mike happens later, very few audience members were able to get that his subplot was an important part of the storyline. The reason is that most had accepted it as a joke scene or just there to add more color to the movie.