Between the Bruce Campbell movies and Spider Man movies, Sam Raimi made A Simple Plan (1998) starring Billy Bob Thornton and The Gift here written by him. Billy Bob was very hot in 2000 and the cast assembled here is quite a collection. Cate Blanchett leads the way, but she is supported by Hilary Swank (both won Oscars in 2004), JK Simmons (another Oscar winner) as the hilarious local sheriff, Gary Cole, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves (playing a real piece of work character) and Greg Kinnear. Katie Holmes, right smack dab in the middle of Dawson’s Creek, may have been the biggest star of them all at the time.
The story is based on Billy Bob’s mother.
Raimi opens with these lyrical, beautiful dissolves on the woods—they are both pretty to look at, and foreshadowing.
It is a southern gothic mystery with a supernatural touch (Blanchett’s character’s gift). Outside of the dissolves in the opening and in a few surrealism interludes, Raimi’s impact on the film is minimal. He shrewdly plugs in a faux-heartbeat in one tense scene where an empty house is playing a loud televangelist preacher on the television, but his approach is mostly point and shoot medium close-ups.
As a sort of psychic, Blanchett’s character has some captivating characters in her sphere. Ribisi plays one, a victim of abuse, a disturbed character. Swank plays another. There are at least four or five possible suspects.
It was shot in Georgia with these great Spanish moss trees hanging over the streets and over the water.
The surrealism interlude that is by far Raimi’s greatest contribution to the film occurs at the 46-minute mark. He blends, via dissolve, Blanchett’s eyes over the Spanish moss—and then tilts down to Blanchett walking down the middle of an empty street.
The court room scenes should have been skipped altogether. Raimi has no idea how to shoot them, and this film would be better at 90 minutes then it is at 111.
Once again, the dissolves come to the film’s rescue as Raimi rifles through the possible suspects via dissolves.
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