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The plot of the Coen brothers brilliant black comedy Fargo revolves around Jerry Lundegaard's desperate need for some large sum of money.

Is there any hint at all as to why he needs it or how he managed to get himself into a place where he is so desperate he is willing to trigger the whole fake kidnap?

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    The movie never says, but his wife comes from money, and I always assumed he put himself in debt trying to support her in the manner to which she had become accustomed. – Michael Stern Apr 22 '14 at 16:53
  • Well he needed $750,000 from his father-in-law. He also 'stole' $350,000 from GMAC. He was going to pay the kidnappers $40,000 + the vehicle. Eventually the ransom came in at $1MM (which Jerry made up to Wade, his father-in-law). So it looks like he was around $1MM in debt to "someone" who is never stated in the film. – Jack Marchetti May 15 '18 at 15:23
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I have seen the movie several times and just looked up a few reviews, and none of them explicitly mention the reason for the money. According to IMDB's exhaustive plot synopsis, the debts are "anonymous".

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I was always under the impression that the money is to pay off GMAC from the scene in the movie where he's on the phone to GMAC, and they're asking for the VIN plates of the cars he's sold (and requested finance on).

The implication is he's fudging the numbers of the cars he's requested finance on, so he could get the money from the bank, by selling cars that don't exist.

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  • But he owes the GMC dealership $350K, so he must be in deep debt to someone else to keep trying to way more than the $350K owed. – AGuest2 Dec 6 '16 at 2:28
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He wants to open his own car dealership. It is evident when he solicits a loan from his father-in-law and his business partner Stan. As he was hopeful that they would loan it to him when they invite him for a meeting, he tries to cancel the ordered kidnapping but they were more interested in getting in the deal themselves and paying him a "finder's fee".

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    The deal he mentions to his father-in-law is for a supposed parking lot, not a car dealership. That deal is a sham, meant to get money from his father-in-law so he can pay off a debt. That debt, as I noted in my answer, is never elaborated on in the movie. – Johnny Bones Apr 6 '15 at 20:25
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i think the implication, given jerry's behaviors, strengths and weaknesses, it's gambling debt from people he knows will likely kill him if he doesn't come up with money from outstanding gambling debt

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    Welcome to Movies & TV! We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – Paulie_D Jul 4 '17 at 20:05
  • This is the most plausible scenario to me. He's willing to gamble with many peoples lives in order to cover up the debt, so it's quite likely that the nature of the debt is a gambling problem as well. There's also the character of Mike Yanagita who's very willing to lie in order to hide from the shame of his gambling debt, implying that one of the central themes of the story is the nature of people who gamble recklessly. Carl Showalter also appears to gamble a lot in the way he runs his mouth and schemes, and ends up paying the ultimate price for his final gambit. – Throttlehead Oct 12 '20 at 19:56
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Why did jerry need the money? It is not to pay off GMAC because he used the car to pay the kidnappers up front for the job. The GMAC only asks for numbers after he gave the car to the kidnappers. Later in the film, he thinks that he will get the money loan from step-father and tries to cancel the hitmen. The money is for an empty car lot purchase.

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According to other some other blogs, the reason for the $350 K is a Mcguffin. We do not know what it was for. We can only speculate. Like the object in the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction"

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    Welcome to Movies & TV! We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – Paulie_D Jun 28 '17 at 14:24

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