Monday, August 22, 2011
#183: A Simple Plan
A Simple Plan is adapted from a Scott B. Smith novel of the same name. Normally when studios take on projects based on novels, it is quite routine to have multiple screenwriters come on-board. That Scott B.Smith wasn't attached to any other writer is as much proof of the studio's faith in the writer as much of the ability of debutant Scott B. Smith to adapt a novel to screen. Yes indeed, A Simple Plan is one of those rare occurences where not only the author of the novel is credited for the screenplay but he is also given the solo writing credit in the movie.
It is a story of greed engulfing three men in a small town in an American winter. Those three men are Hank (Bill Paxton), his brother Jacob (Billy Bob) and Lou (Brent Briscoe) who chance upon a a bag full of cash while playing the fool in the woods with Jacobs dog. Of these three men, Hank is the epitome of the modern American man who strives hard for his living and for whom his wife and their forthcoming child are all that he lives for. Jacob, the elder brother, is an anachronistic unemployed middle-aged simpleton who can barely put a sentence together coherently. The foul-mouthed Lou is his best buddy and the two seem to share a bond that goes way back and is probably thicker than what Jacob shares with his own brother. As you read this, it might occur to you that these three are completely different characters and in that lies the strength of A Simple Plan. . In any situation, the three end up having different views and that gives the impetus for the story to move forward.
The discovery of the money leads these three characters into a spiralling affair of conspiracy, betrayal and one-upmanship. And the catalyst for that spiral is Jacob's wife Sarah, played by Bridget Fonda. Sarah is the archetypical Lady Macbeth who is far more conniving than her husband Hank. In one of her finest performances, Fonda lives up to her famous last name and delivers a stirring performance. The beauty of A Simple Plan is in fact, it's inherent simplicity. Some really incredulous things happen in the movie but because the narrative is laid out so with such an easy pace, you really don't have trouble digesting it at all. The stand out performance amongst the actors comes from Billy Bob. His act as the buffoon-ish Jacob rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination. It is a performance that moves you in the end with it's integrity. Directed by maverick Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat till the very end never letting up on intensity. Danny Elfman and Alar Kivilo combine their respective departments of music and photography to add various levels of on-screen aesthetic brilliance. Sam Raimi's collaboration with Coens might've helped him in giving the movie a very subtle yet strong undercurrent of tension that gives you the feeling that the story could explode any time. In fact, those explosions keep coming and yet each is more impactful than the last.
In the annals of crime thrillers, and there's only one that I went by which is the AFI's top 100 Thrills, surprisingly A Simple Plan doesn't merit a mention. Going through that list makes you think that it should've been there. It really should've been.