A Simple Plan (1998)

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*. It’s actually very hard to represent stupid characters convincingly. The people we meet in A Simple Plan are all of limited intelligence. But — and this is the important point — nobody is stupid all the time, or stupid in every way.
*. It looks cold out. Where are we? Wisconsin? Minnesota? Anywhere near Fargo? And is that William Macy following up on his crazy kidnapping plan with an even more ridiculous and ultimately futile scheme to impersonate an FBI agent in order to get his stolen money back?
*. I feel like I should like this movie more, but then I feel the same way about Fargo, which seems to have been its inspiration. Maybe Bill Paxton just can’t carry the lead role of Hank. Maybe, despite a fine performance, I just don’t buy Thornton’s Jacob. Maybe the screenplay is too obvious and slow, building up to a forced conclusion with a stilted moral pronouncement.
*. The real moral of the story: learn to keep a secret. Everyone in this movie is undone because they talk too much. Silence would have been golden.
*. Bridget Fonda’s beautiful and rodent-faced Sarah steals the show. She is blank, evil, scheming and dopey. She’s so good, I wish the movie had given her more to do. She’s an icon here of the poison of dissatisfaction: the real American nightmare.
*. The plot lost me when it lost its simplicity and introduced the incredible plot twist involving Baxter. That part made no sense at all.
*. I like the photography, but do they go to the well too often with the shots of the wintry farm and the crows in the trees? I think so. But simplicity and understatement have always been a hard sell at the movies. The money complicates things.

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