A Simple Plan ★★★½


Second viewing, last seen the day it opened in theaters. Having read the book beforehand, I was hugely disappointed at the time by how much Smith had watered down his ultrableak portrait of a "good" man's step-by-step descent into pure evil; most of Hank's truly horrible acts are omitted onscreen (along with his increasingly tortured rationalizations), resulting in a fairly typical heist-gone-wrong scenario that just substitutes finding a bag of money for more actively stealing it. The novel's doing something far more ambitious, and if you're aware of that, the loss is felt. This time, though, I made a concerted effort to forget/ignore my knowledge of the source material and concentrate on the film Raimi actually made...which turns out to be pretty good, shifting focus to the fraternal relationship and turning Jacob, who's kind of a dullard on the page, into a much more poignant and tragic figure. Even in '98, I wasn't blind to Thornton's Skandie-winning performance (in a landslide, beating runner-up Dylan Baker by over 200 points), though I wouldn't have guessed that he'd be the only one of the three leads still alive and working 20 years later. Nicely atmospheric location work, too, demonstrating how little Raimi leans on his rotating stable of DP's. (Other notable films on Alar Kivilo's résumé: The Blind Side, Bad Teacher, Year One. Not exactly renowned for his eye.) Still much prefer the book, but at least I better appreciate this now for its own sake. Wish I could say the same for The Silence of the Lambs. [Flees room.]