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A Simple Plan

Selection for the Weekend of
October 20 - 22, 2000

What is the American Dream? Over the years, we used to consider working hard and struggling to the top of the ladder as the American Dream, but, as it gets harder and harder to become an honest success in America and more barriers are put in the way of good people, that dream has been replaced by the lottery. That's right. Most Americans would rather win the lottery or find a great amount of money, instead of working for it. And that's the premise behind this week's selection, A Simple Plan.

Bill Paxton stars as Hank, a hard working guy with a job at the grain and feed mill, a measly weekly take home pay and a very pregnant wife. He doesn't have much but his honesty and work ethic. However, that isn't enough to pay the bills or have the types of luxuries that he wants for his family. One day in January, Hank ends up riding home with his mentally challenged brother, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and Jacob's unemployed drinking buddy, Lou (Brent Briscoe).

They find a downed plane and a duffel bag full of hundred dollar bills. Jacob and Lou want to keep the money, but Hank isn't so sure. He wants to report it to the police and fears that some nefarious figures will come looking for the money. The three decide to hide the treasure until spring, then keep it if no one starts to look for it.

Can they trust each other? Will their greed break up the pact?

At the heart of A Simple Plan is a great plot and fantastic screenplay. Writer Scott Smith, who wrote the original novel the film is based on, constantly changes the situation with new wrinkles, betrayed trusts and changing character attitudes. Finally, he gives us an ending we aren't really sure we saw coming, but find totally plausible and just. That's why Smith was nominated for an Oscar.

While Paxton seems to labor a bit in parts of the film, Briscoe and Thornton deliver fine performances. The characters of Hank and Lou struggle to get Jacob on their side, which gives Thornton a chance to show the character's confusion, sadness, vulnerability and humanity. He particularly shines as Jacob explains his loneliness to Hank. It is a breathtaking scene. Also, Thornton does an amazing job of showing the character's frustration with a limited life and the dishonest way he can finally be a "normal" (his words in the movie) person. It is too distasteful for him, yet, it might be his only hope. That is why he got nominated for an Oscar.

For such an amazing actor, Billy Bob Thornton has an eccentric (that's a nice way to put it) lifestyle. Originally, he wanted to become a rock and roll star, but found himself paying the bills by writing scripts in L.A. In 1984, he had a near heart attack brought on by malnutrition after he spent weeks eating only potatoes. Inspiration for his Sling Blade character?

He appeared on Burt Reynolds' TV show, Evening Shade, and even starred in the miserable comedy Hearts Afire. However, he scored critical and financial success with the independent film Sling Blade. Since then, his career has been overshadowed by his personal life.

Thornton left his second wife and started dating actress Laura Dern. The relationship was very serious and the two made a yet-to-be-released film together. Unknown to Dern, according to her, when she was on a trip, Thornton left her and suddenly married the just-as-eccentric Angelina Jolie in a quickie Vegas ceremony. According to a recent interview with Dern, she learned of the break up when she read the news of the Jolie-Thornton marriage in the newspapers and they have never spoken about it. She thought everything was hunky-dory!

Recently, Thornton was admitted to a hospital for a viral infection. Some have argued that Thornton was really admitted to the hospital for severe malnutrition, again, after weeks of an orange-foods-only diet. No matter how you put it, the man is always interesting.

If you want a good, taut thriller, rent A Simple Plan this weekend.

Grade: A

Directed by Sam Raimi

Written by Scott B. Smith

Based on the novel by Scott B. Smith


Bill Paxton …………………. Hank

Billy Bob Thornton …………. Jacob

Brent Briscoe ………………. Lou

Bridget Fonda ……………… Sarah

Chelcie Ross ……………….. Carl

Copyright 2000 -