|A SIMPLE PLAN (1998)|
|"Nobody'd ever believe that you'd be capable of doing what you've done."|
|Time: 121 mins.|
Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Thornton) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The hook of this film is one everyone thinks about every day of their lives what would you do if you found a large sum of money which is why the film gets under your skin like a parasite. You can't help but sympathize with these men and wonder if you would commit the same crimes, just to be able to keep the cash. It's the illusion of happiness they think the money will bring that inevitably destroys all their lives. As we all know the only successful crimes are committed by criminals because decent people always crack under the weight of the guilt. The second thing one should remember if going over to the dark side: don't put your fate in the hands of drunken hillbillies.
The film is about the further unravelling of the lives of three men and their families after they find a downed plane with 4.5 million dollars in it. Since the plane has been there awhile, they assume the owner is no longer looking for the cash and decide to keep it with one stipulation. Hank (Paxton) wants to wait until spring when the plane is found by another local and if noone comes looking for the money, then split it three ways. His dimwitted older brother Jacob (Thornton) and Jacob's drunkard, unemployed best friend Lou (Briscoe) want to split the money right then and there, but have no choice but to acquiese to Hank.
Both Hank and Lou tell their wives, unable to keep the promise of future security under wraps. When Hank asks Sarah (Fonda) if she would keep the money if she found it, as they had, she says no, but quickly changes her tune when he pours it out in front of her. This will change their lives forever. All of them desperately need the money: Hank and Sarah are about to have their first child; Lou hasn't had a job in months and the creditors are starting to come calling; and Jacob, well, he's never really been able to take care of himself. When a misguided encounter leads to the murder of a local farmer by Hank and Jacob, it's not long before the three of them start to crack under the strain of their secret.
Lou wants his share and threatens Hank that he'll tell the police the Wilkenson accident was no accident. Hank agrees to give him his share, but he'll have to wait until the baby is born. Sarah doesn't trust Lou or Jacob and comes up with another plan to capture Lou confessing to Wilkenson's murder, that way he won't be able to turn Hank in. What happens is a veritable blood bath, leaving Lou and his wife dead and Hank and Jacob concocting yet another story to keep themselves out of prison. Because he's a decent, upstanding family man, nobody thinks twice about the stories Hank weaves. Even Sarah is no longer horrified by his actions. All she wants is their new future.
But that's not meant to be. The owner of the money comes looking for it and he's not about to leave anyone alive who can testify to his presence. Things go horrible wrong in the woods, leaving only Hank alive to tell the FBI what happened. No one suspects that he has the cash, but it really doesn't matter anyway. Everything he ever held dear, his marriage, his brother, his own self-worth, has been lost in the effort.
A SIMPLE PLAN is an engrossing film that has some slow moments, but the story and performances more than make up for them. This is a well-told and well-acted tale. Paxton and Thornton give powerful and heartbreaking performances as vastly different brothers who just want to live their lives without worry. Thornton is amazing as Jacob, a man who's never really known love and is so beat down by life he's willing to use the money to buy it. Paxton is the moral compass of the film and though he strays way off the path of normalcy, there's not a moment that you blame him. Who's to say what any of us would do in a similar situation. He wants the money for security, not greed and that makes him impossible to hate. Fonda makes the best of her role as the frustrated wife who wants more out of life than the hand she was dealt, but she's overshadowed by the men. This is their show all the way.
This is Raimi's best film yet. The direction is subtle and powerful. You can just feel the noose tightening around their necks. The constant cold and snow is enough to drive any sane person to murder. If I lived there I'd do anything I could to get out. Though there's some violence in the film, it's never out of place or over the top. Just unfortunate. A SIMPLE PLAN is a well-crafted film, but it'll leave you disatisfied and unhappy. It destroys the get-rich-quick dream of all people and that's just not right. This is not a happy filmgoing experience, but it is a good one.