February 17, 2010

Justify My Netflix: A Simple Plan

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

A Simple Plan

Today's movie: A Simple Plan, 1998 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the only non-fantastical movie in the entire career of genre favorite Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man); that alone has always made me curious about it, to say nothing of it starring that dreamy Bridget Fonda.

The reality: Oh, this was so freaking brilliant, I don't know where to begin; and that's because, no matter how convoluted this noirish caper film ends up getting, screenwriter Scott Smith (who also wrote the novel this movie is based on) comes up with these incredibly plausible ways of explaining it all, or at least explaining why the improbable things making the situation such a mess are the same improbable things that got them all in the mess to begin with. See, like the title promises, the whole disaster starts out simply enough: three friends in a small town in Minnesota are hunting one winter day, come across a crashed airplane full of unmarked hundreds (four million dollars' worth, in fact), deduce that it's probably money from a bank robbery or drug deal, and decide to simply keep it and stash it for awhile, before eventually digging it out months later and all of them quietly moving to other cities. But of course, this being a noirish caper film, things start going wrong quickly, which is where this movie is brilliant -- for example, the borderline-retarded brother of the threesome ends up killing a local fisherman in a blind panic, because of him asking just one too many questions about what they were doing out in the woods with a big lumpy bag, just the start of a whole series of small events that end up having huge consequences by the end.

Now, the critic in me sees a scene like that and thinks, "Hmm, how convenient that there should just happen to be a borderline-retarded man as part of this group, so that he can stir up all this trouble that wouldn't otherwise exist;" but then you quickly realize that if it wasn't for this character, the smarter brother would've never been talked into keeping the money in the first place, a good example of the "internal logic" that your professor is always telling you to add more of to your work. That's why I liked this movie so much, is that the script is highly intelligent, and comes up with a logical, believable reason for all the exceptional events that drive this Oscar-nominated melodrama; and that's a really necessary thing for a convoluted film to be a great one, the need to make sure that all your funny-looking jigsaw pieces eventually all line up. Delightfully restrained for a Sam Raimi movie (except for the scene where a fox gets into a chicken coop -- oh man), but still full of all the darkness and offbeat humor he's known for, it's easy to see why he would choose a story like this for his first and so far only non-FX movie, and it comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys well-done crime films.

Strangest piece of trivia: Shot in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Raimi was given some tips on shooting in heavy snow from his buddies the Coen Brothers (Fargo).

Worth your time? Ooh, very much so

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:13 AM, February 17, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |