A Simple Plan (1998)

“I mean, hell, Hank, I’ve never even kissed a girl. You know, if me becoming rich is gonna change all that, you know I’m all for it.” According to the tagline, “They’ve worked hard all their lives, but they still can’t afford the American Dream. Stealing it is even better.” Three ordinary guys in the snowy Midwest stumble upon a plane crash, a dead pilot and a duffel bag stuffed with $4 million in cash. Hank (Bill Paxton) is a yuppie-in-training who originally believes the money should be turned in to authorities. Bridget Fonda portrays Hank’s wife, Sarah. Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) is Hank’s simpleminded older brother who agrees with his white-trash buddy, Lou (Brent Briscoe), that the best plan is to split the cash. As you can expect, tragedy ensues. Good acting all around in this sleeper directed by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) but Thornton steals the show. When we first meet Thornton’s Jacob, our instinct is to laugh at this “freak”—he looks completely ridiculous with his stringy hair, thick glasses and bad teeth. However, Thornton’s portrayal goes beyond simple caricature. We see many aspects to Jacob: loneliness, despair, humor, anger, frustration and compassion. In one powerful scene, Jacob tells his brother about an incident in high school when another student pretended to show an interest in him, but it was only a cruel joke. He further confides that he hasn’t ever kissed a girl and if the money will help make it possible to meet a woman, then he’s all for it. The other two characters are motivated only by greed. However, Jacob is the only one who actually has a dream: he wants to buy the run-down family farm and bring it back to life. Sadly, we surmise that Jacob is doomed from the beginning and this prediction proves quite accurate by the end of the film. A Simple Plan would make a great double feature with Fargo (1996). Thornton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor but lost out to James Coburn (Affliction). In The Billy Bob Tapes (2012), Thornton remarks, “A Simple Plan was filmed up in Ashland, Wisconsin, and Delano, Minnesota. The cast and crew stayed at a haunted hotel in Wisconsin, and it was very, very cold. The wind-chill factor one night was sixty below zero … We loved playing those characters. I loved playing Jacob so much, I went a little too far losing weight for the role and later ended up kind of sick and in the hospital. But Sam Raimi directed a beautiful movie … Still, I thought that movie didn’t get its due like it should have.”

Leave a Reply

Close Menu