A Simple Plan (film)
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|A Simple Plan|
|Directed by||Sam Raimi|
|Produced by||James Jacks
|Screenplay by||Scott Smith|
|Based on||A Simple Plan
by Scott Smith
Billy Bob Thornton
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Editing by||Arthur Coburn|
Mutual Film Company
The Mark Gordon Company
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||121 minutes|
|Box office||$16,311,763 (US)|
A Simple Plan is a 1998 American drama film directed by Sam Raimi, based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay of the film. The film stars Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda. It was shot in Delano, Minnesota and Ashland and Saxon, Wisconsin. Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Scott Smith was nominated for the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay.
Hank Mitchell (Paxton) and his pregnant wife, Sarah (Fonda), live a content, quiet life in rural Minnesota. Hank, one of the town's few college graduates, works in a feed mill, while his wife is a librarian. Jacob (Thornton) is Hank's dim-witted brother. When Hank, Jacob, and Jacob's friend, Lou (Briscoe), chase a fox into the woods during a drive in the country, they find a crashed airplane. The pilot is dead and the only cargo is a bag full of unmarked bills totaling approximately $4.4 million.
Hank suggests handing the money to the police, but is persuaded not to by Jacob and Lou. Hank's condition is that he keep the money safe at his house and no one spends anything until winter ends and everyone moves away when they divvy up the cash. All agree to keep the discovery a secret. When they return to their vehicle, Carl Jenkins, the sheriff, appears and Hank nervously talks to him while Jacob mentions hearing a plane in the area. Hank breaks the pact when he reveals the discovery to his wife, who is overjoyed.
When Hank and Jacob return to the plane to put some of the money back as part of a larger plan to avoid suspicion, they come across an old man on a snowmobile. Jacob, thinking their cover is blown, bludgeons the man. When the man regains consciousness and asks for the police, Hank suffocates him in order to make it look like an accidental death. Jacob reneges on his promise to move away during the summer, and tells his brother about his intention to buy their deceased father's farm with his share of the money. Hank thinks that his brother is being ridiculous as neither of them know anything about farming.
Lou drunkenly demands some of the money from Hank, because he has spent recklessly since the discovery and needs cash fast. Hank refuses and Lou threatens to tell the authorities about the old man's death. Hank and Jacob team up against Lou. Lou, drunk and enraged that the two conspired against him, pulls a shotgun on the two brothers. Jacob kills Lou to save his brother, and then Hank kills Lou's wife when she appears, attempting to kill Hank with a revolver. Hank concocts a plan as to what to tell the police to avoid arrest. The plan works, thanks to Hank's solid reputation in the community and Jacob's rehearsed speech to the police. Jacob tells Hank that this whole turn of events is wearing on him and that he "feels evil".
Later, Carl calls Hank and tells him that an FBI agent named Neil Baxter has arrived, looking for a downed plane that may have crashed in the area. Because Jacob mentioned a plane earlier, Carl asks the brothers to assist in the search of the woods. Sarah is immediately skeptical and discovers that Baxter is actually the one who stole the money initially and is posing as an FBI agent to get the rest of the lost cash. Hank still goes with him in order to protect Carl, he brings a handgun from Carl's office as a precaution. When Carl, Baxter, Hank, and Jacob split up and head into the woods. When they find the plane, Baxter pulls a pistol, kills Carl, and demands the money from Hank. Luckily, Hank manages to kill Baxter with the gun he brought along. When Jacob arrives at the site, Hank starts to concoct another story to tell the authorities, but Jacob announces he doesn't want to live with these bad memories, and will shoot himself to end it. He encourages Hank to kill him instead and frame Baxter, so that Hank can still tell any story he wants. After grappling with the decision, Hank kills Jacob, and starts sobbing.
At the police station, Hank tells his story to real FBI agents. As Sarah predicted, no one would believe this upstanding member of the community would be capable of such wrongdoing, and he is cleared. But he gets some unexpected bad news. The money in the plane was ransom money paid to kidnappers, and before it was delivered, many of the bills' serial numbers were written down to track the cash and find whoever was using it. Hank realizes he cannot use the money without being caught and a distraught Hank goes home and burns it all against the greedy Sarah's wishes, realizing that he killed his own brother for nothing. He and Sarah go back to their old lives, now bored and miserable, and Hank reflects on their losses, remarking that they will never be normal or happy again.
Differences between the film and the novel
The screenplay made numerous changes to the plot, particularly to events in the second half of the novel. In the movie, after Lou and Nancy are killed, Hank does not kill Jacob; rather, he constructs a domestic dispute situation involving just Nancy and Lou, with he and Jacob walking in after Lou had killed Nancy. Hank also murders Lou and Nancy's neighbor at Sarah's suggestion in order to cover up their murder.
Hank and Jacob's relationship is somewhat different. Though still not close, they have more affection for one another in the film than in the novel. While the Jacob of the novel is morbidly obese, the one in the film is small and skinny. Though in both mediums Jacob is a pathetic loser, in the film he is much kinder and considerate, while in the novel he is much more selfish and even scheming.
Lou in the film is married, while in the novel he lives with his girlfriend. Though spiteful and antagonistic towards Hank in both mediums, in the novel Lou is notably more malicious, taking joy in ridiculing and bullying Hank.
The film also changes Hank's reaction to finding out Baxter isn't an FBI agent. Rather than bolting, as he does in the novel, Hank stays with the plan realizing that if he leaves Baxter will kill Carl. Jacob also accompanies the crew. The result is a bloodbath, with only Hank surviving. Jacob is killed by Hank after Jacob threatens to commit suicide because he feels he can no longer live with what he's seen; Hank didn't want him to kill himself because which guns shot whom needed to align for his alibi.
Hank's killing spree at the convenience store is also excluded from the film.
- Bill Paxton as Hank Mitchell
- Bridget Fonda as Sarah Mitchell
- Billy Bob Thornton as Jacob Mitchell
- Brent Briscoe as Lou Chambers
- Jack Walsh as Tom Butler
- Chelcie Ross as Sheriff Carl Jenkins
- Becky Ann Baker as Nancy Chambers
- Gary Cole as Neil Baxter
A Simple Plan was met with critical acclaim, receiving a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but lost against James Coburn of Affliction. Thornton was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, but lost against Ed Harris in The Truman Show. The film earned two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert and is often thought of as one of Sam Raimi's best films, and an improvement upon the book it is based on.
In an article for the journal Post Script, scholar Jane Hill writes,
Although Richard Schickel links the film to Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and a number of reviewers make note of its similarities to the Coen brothers' Fargo, as well as to such classic films as John Huston's Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, it is through even deeper intertextual roots that Smith and Raimi reveal their complicated ideological statement regarding the state of the American dream at the end of the twentieth century... Smith and Raimi transpose three specific sign systems, or texts, central to the western canon: Shakespeare's Macbeth, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Through their complicated interweaving of these language "systems," the filmmakers achieve a new articulation of the relationship between the American dream and ambition, between Christian morality and capitalistic expectations.
IMDB lists a total US box office of $16,311,763.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: A Simple Plan|
- A Simple Plan at the Internet Movie Database
- A Simple Plan at Box Office Mojo
- A Simple Plan at Rotten Tomatoes
- Roger Ebert's Review
- New York Times review