Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: A Simple Plan

I am the weirdo of my family.

I know they worry about me. The out-of-touch long hair. The starkly anti-fashion wardrobe. The reticent personality. Insane ramblings like this one. Honestly, I don’t know where any of this crap comes from.

I have one brother. Very successful at his job at a computer software company. Happily married to a great woman. They’re on the verge of buying a house together. I make faux-anarchist webpages and don’t call him as much as I should.

That’s not to say one lifestyle is better than the other, but I don’t know why I’m such a wacko. My parents are very conservative. I had a simple suburban childhood. Went to nice public schools. Had good, decent friends. Attended a semi-prestigious college. But somewhere along those roads I became a freak. But I know one thing for sure: if my family wasn’t around I’d be completely out of control.

A SIMPLE PLAN is about two wildly different brothers in some hick Midwestern town who stumble across $4.5 million dollars in a crashed airplane in the middle of the woods. After finding the money, the brothers’ lives deteriorate into a stream of ethical dilemmas and logistical nightmares as they try to keep their discovery a secret.

I really, really wanted to love this movie since it was directed by one of my heroes: Sam Raimi, the genius responsible for THE EVIL DEAD trilogy and DARKMAN. Raimi’s filmmaking style on his previous films is of the “love it or hate” it variety. People either appreciate his frenetic camerawork and his gloriously goofy plots and characters or they just don’t get it at all.

Going into A SIMPLE PLAN, I knew it was going to be a radical departure from Raimi’s older films because of stuff I had heard beforehand. It’s a very low-key, subtle movie with a slow-building tension. I was okay with Sam’s new approach and I think it really worked for him to branch out into new territory.

What I had a problem with was the central characters. Bill Paxton played it too straight and Billy Bob Thornton too eccentric. I know what it’s like for siblings to be different. If you sat my brother down next to me, you may not guess that we’re related. If you scratched the surface of our beliefs and lifestyle choices, you might wonder if we really have the same parents. But deep down there are core aspects of our selves that are unmistakably similar.

Billy Bob’s practically a retard in the film. Paxton’s the younger brother whom the family had to sacrifice everything in order for him to go to college. He’s intelligent, sophisticated and a snappy dresser (and he’s married to babe Bridget Fonda to boot!). Billy Bob has gigantic brown teeth and apparently never washes his hair or clothes. For the entire film, I couldn’t figure out these two guys’ relationship and it bothered me the whole time. For certain scenes, it seemed like they never talked or saw each other prior to the events of the movie. Then, for other scenes, they must have seen each other a great deal. I understood the points they were trying to make to have them be so dissimilar, but they made it too wide a gap. There was too much contradiction to make it all believable.

However, there was much to the film to enjoy. Everybody in it was great. It would have been difficult to come up with a better cast. As far as the plot went, I liked the slow build even though some of it was a little too manufactured. And I have to say that I think the film had what’s to be one of my favorite endings of all time, but I’m going to need a little bit of time and maybe another viewing in order to definitively make that statement.