Thursday, September 19, 2013

Case Study No. 0997: Sarah Mitchell

A Simple Plan (6/8) Movie CLIP - Like It Used To Be (1998) HD
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Sarah (Bridget Fonda) tries to stop Hank (Bill Paxton) from bringing the money back.

TM & (C) Paramount (2012)
Cast: Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda
Director: Sam Raimi
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Producer: Mark Gordon, James Jacks, Gary Levinsohn, Michael Polaire, Adam Schroeder
Screenwriter: Scott B. Smith
Film Description: Based on Scott B. Smith's bone-chilling 1993 novel, A Simple Plan is a bit of a departure for horror film director Sam Raimi. Instead of flying eyeballs and dancing corpses, A Simple Plan is a taut crime thriller in the vein of Joel Coen's Academy Award-winning Fargo. Set during the white winters of Minnesota, this story tells the eerie tale of Hank and Jacob Mitchell (played by Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton) who, along with a buddy, find a downed single-engine plane buried in the snowy woods. Inside it is a decaying pilot and a bag carrying four million dollars in one-hundred-dollar bills. The men decide to hide the money until spring when the snow is melted and the plane is found. If no one notices the missing money at that time, they will split it and live a wealthy new life. A simple plan, right? Wrong. Much like Humphrey Bogart's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, things can only get worse, as distrust and greed creep into the minds of the principals. They find it difficult to decide which one gets to hold the money -- and even more impossible to keep from dipping into the stash until spring. And so on. It also becomes increasingly tough to keep a secret of this magnitude. And if all this doesn't get moviegoers' brains working, it seems there are suspicious characters in town who just may be able to link them to the plane, forcing the more dangerous and bloody question of what to do with those people and how to cover their tracks.

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[scene opens with Sarah (holding their baby) and Hank in their home, arguing about the duffel bag filled with money that they found]
SARAH: Wadda you want?
HANK: Well ...
[he buries his face in his hands]
SARAH: Wadda you want? Do you wanna just walk out there and get shot by this guy?
HANK: No! I ... No, I don't wanna walk out there and get shot!
SARAH: Well, I'm trying to come up with a plan!
HANK: A plan?
SARAH: Yeah!
HANK: Like, like ... Like the one to take the money back to the plane, and we end up killing Stephanson? Or maybe the one where we tape Lou, and two more people end up dead? Is that the sorta plan you're thinking of?
[he slaps his hand down on the table]
HANK: Well, I've got a plan!
[he gets up]
HANK: I'm taking the money back, right now! All of it!
[he walks towards the stairs]
SARAH: Hank ...
SARAH: Hank!
HANK: I'm gonna put it back, and everything's gonna be just like it used to be!
[he goes upstairs, while she puts the baby (who starts to cry) in her crib]
HANK: [from off camera] That money, goddamn it ... fuckin' money!
SARAH: Is that what you think? Is that what you think you want? Walking off to the feed store every morning for the next thirty years, waiting for Tom Butler to retire or die so you can finally get a raise?
[as she continues yelling at him, he slowly comes back down the stairs dragging the duffel bag behind him]
SARAH: What about Amanda? Do you think she's gonna like growing up in somebody else's hand-me-down clothes? Playing with some kid's old toys, because we can never afford to buy her anything new?
[he stops in front of her with a blank look on his face]
HANK: [whispering] Don't say anymore.
SARAH: [pause] And me. What about me?
[they both stare at each other]
SARAH: Spending the rest of my life, eight hours a day, with a fake smile plastered on my face ... checking out books. And then coming home to cook dinner for you. The same meals over and over again, whatever the week's coupons will allow.
[she shakes her head]
SARAH: Only going out to restaurants for special occasions. Birthdays or anniversaries, and even then, having to watch what we order. Skipping the appetizer. Coming home for dessert ... You think that's gonna make me happy?
[with his wife on the verge of tears, Hank can't even look her in the eyes]
HANK: [whispering] That's enough.
SARAH: No, no! I haven't done Jacob yet! It's back to the welfare office for Jacob. The occasional odd job. But with Lou gone now ... just himself and his dog, all alone in that filthy apartment. How long do you give him, Hank?
HANK: [yelling] Stop it!
SARAH: [whispering] Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Everything just like it used to be.
[she walks away, as Hank can only stare off into the distance with a sad look on his face]




Raimi, Sam (Director). A Simple Plan. United States: Paramount, 1998.

Starring: Bridget Fonda (Sarah Mitchell, Library Worker); Bill Paxton (Hank Mitchell); Billie Bob Thornton (Jacob Mitchell)

Based on the Novel: Smith, Scott B. A Simple Plan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Sarah (Bridget Fonda) is heavy with child while shelving books in an early scene of this film about good people lured into doing bad things. Her husband, Hank (Bill Paxton), his brother and a buddy let greed overcome common sense when they find a downed aircraft carrying a lot of money. She wants to turn it in, he does not, and soon events spin out of control. Later she helps find information on a microfiche machine, so she succeeds as an information provider. The point of her working in a library, however, appears to be a means of showing that she has an underpaid job (they have money problems) with no future (they're destined to continue having money problems) and that doesn't bring personal satisfaction. This is underscored at the end (MILD SPOILER FOLLOWS) when we see her once again shelving books in a scene almost exactly like the earlier one. This is a fine film, beautifully acted, that will have you asking yourself what you would do in their situation. The movie parallels the book as much as movies ever do. The library job is pretty close (there are no significant library scenes in either). The small town library job is considered beneath Sarah's capabilities, but considering her degree in petroleum engineering, perhaps it is. At one point the library fires her. Apparently if you bring a crying baby to work with you every day, the patrons get annoyed. This is not in the film.



A Simple Plan (1998) presents a scenario that filmgoers realize cannot possibly be accomplished. The Mitchell brothers, Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and a friend, Lou Chambers (Brent Briscoe), discover an airplane that crashed in a snowy countryside. In the airplane, they find a bag containing $4.4 million.

Hank is a college graduate with a mediocre job in a feed store; his pregnant wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda), a redhead (full bang; hair hangs loose to middle of back), is a librarian. Jacob is not too bright but functions marginally in society; he comprehends the distinction between right and wrong, but is barely surviving financially. Lou is unemployed; he and his wife are continually at odds about money and his alcoholic lifestyle. The three agree that Hank will keep the money until they can safely spend it; the plan unravels quickly as both Jacob and Lou make demands upon Hank for their share of the money.

When informing Sarah about the money, Hank maintains that they should keep it, suggesting that it is a crime only "if someone gets hurt." Sarah believes they have enough money but is swayed by his arguments and agrees that they should keep the money. She convinces Hank that he should return $500,000 to the airplane, reasoning that authorities would believe that if someone found the money, they would never leave such a sum in the airplane. With this suggestion, Sarah becomes an integral participant in the scheme; she may believe that it is wrong to keep the money, but she wants it. She stresses the need to be careful, telling Hank, "That's what we have to be from now on. We have to be careful. We have to be thinking ahead all of the time."

Visiting Sarah in the library, Hank reads some articles that Sarah obtained about a kidnapping. The child's parents paid a $4.4 million ransom to the abductors. Hank insists that because they now know from whom they are stealing, the situation is changed. Sarah objects: "Hank, it's always been stealing. We just didn't know who we were stealing from." Hank is uneasy about the money, but Sarah persuades him that because the money is not counterfeit, everything will be satisfactory.

While in the hospital for the birth of her daughter, Sarah devises a scheme for Hank to tape-record Lou confessing that he killed one of the local townspeople, a murder actually committed by Hank to protect the money. Using the scheme designed by Sarah, Hank manages to record Lou confessing to the murder.

Shortly after Hank reveals that he recorded the confession, Lou becomes incensed about Hank's deceptive ploy to obtain his confession on tape. Lou grabs a shotgun and demands the tape. In the ensuing argument, Lou is shot by Jacob and Lou's wife is shot by Hank. The brothers, primarily Hank, prepare a story to give to the authorities, making the shooting appear as if it were a husband-wife conflict that ended tragically. The police accept their account of the incident, but Jacob is troubled with his part in the scheme.

Shortly after the funerals, an FBI agent arrives and wants the two brothers and sheriff to assist in locating the downed airplane. Sarah suspects the agent is not from the FBI, but one of the two men involved in the kidnapping - the pilot's accomplice. Hank, frustrated about the involvement of the FBI, decides to take the money back to the airplane. Sarah makes an impassioned plea for Hank to keep it, stressing that Hank needs the money, their daughter needs the money, and she needs the money.

"What about me?" she asks Hank, continuing, "Spending the rest of my life, eight hours a day, with a fake smile plastered on my face. Checking out books."

Sarah's argument to keep the money prevails. She rationalizes that their economic situation demands it. Knowing that the money will provide a better life for them is justification for Sarah. Having committed murder to protect the money, Hank vacillates between keeping and returning it. Sarah fails to understand Hank's dilemma; she unabashedly demands they keep the money.

The next morning, Sarah telephones the FBI and discovers the man posing as an FBI agent is an imposter; he is one of the kidnappers. She informs Hank, who is able to obtain a revolver in the sheriff's office before driving out to the crash area. At the crash site, the imposter shoots the sheriff and Hank shoots the imposter.

Jacob, however, cannot go on wit hthe subterfuge and requests that Hank shoot him, making it look as if the imposter did it. Hank shoots his brother and fabricates a story to account for the shootings and death of the three men.

While interviewing Hank, the authorities mention that they will recover the missing money; they have the serial numbers of about 1 in 10 of the bills. They just have to wait until some of the bills begin to circulate, because individuals remember who give them $100 bills.

The authorities believe Hank's version of the incident, permitting him to leave. At home, he burns the money in the fireplace, fighting with a desperate Sarah who wants to keep it and move away. In the film's next and ending scenes, Sarah (with a depressive somber face) is shelving books in the library, while Hank dishearteningly works in the feed store.

Sarah continues the long line of reel librarians who are dissatisfied with their financial position. Initially believing they had "enough money," Sarah envisions a lifestyle without overriding monetary problems. She, as Elsie Braden in Violent Saturday (1955), is tempted by and easily succumbs to the opportunity to obtain money. The right or wrong associated with taking such money is an ethical issue that is quickly brushed aside by both women. Both need money; consequently, they use a Machiavellian approach - obtaining something you desperately need cannot be wrong.

For Sarah, however, the price of retaining the money is the murder of five individuals - four by Hank and one by Jacob. Her brother-in-law Jacob could not intellectually rationalize his participation in three deaths, requesting that he be shot rather than live with such an ethical burden.

Sarah is unaffected by these events, failing to realize their significance in her quest for money. She is willing to accept a 1-in-10 chance of being apprehended and struggles with Hank over the burning of the money.

Hank and Sarah commit a number of felonies during this film and walk away free as it closes. They end where they began, poor and hardworking, but with bitter memories of what might have been and the loss of friends and a family member.

In the film's library scenes, the camera is located on one side of a book stack, taking shots of Sarah through vacant slots of standing books on the shelves. Sarah appears to be imprisoned; the books remaining on the shelves appear as bars as the camera follows Sarah moving in the next aisle. These camera shots are reminisicent of the shots of an imprisoned John Lewis in the Aberdarcy Public Library in Only Two Can Play (1962).

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