|Best Laid Plans
As this film began, I had that vague feeling of unease and became
convinced that I was in for another ill-conceived caper film that, while
providing fodder for its stars to "Act", would devolve into predictability.
Well, I can honestly say that I wrong! While there was the occasional lapse
(more about that later), BEST LAID PLANS had me guessing up until the
end. Just as I was certain I had a handle this postmodern noir, the writer
and director took a unpredictable turn -- and then another. Eventually, I
found myself just giving over to the film and enjoying the ride.
BEST LAID PLANS begins with a frantic call from a bespectacled,
buttoned-up college professor (Josh Brolin) to an old buddy (Alessandro
Nivola). Seems the academic got himself in a jam and needs help from his
pal. When the friend arrives at an impressive mansion, he finds a young
woman (Reese Witherspoon) chained to a pool table. The professor explains
that he had picked the girl up in a bar and after having sex, discovered
she was underage. When the girl threatened to report him to the police,
the professor handcuffed her and called for help.
Once this flimsy premise has been established, the real fun begins.
In flashbacks, it is revealed exactly how these three have managed to find
themselves in such a predicament. To reveal too much of the plot would
spoil the fun; suffice it to say that things and people are not always what
they appear to be.
As in any good film noir, there's the two-bit loser (Nivola), a
femme fatale (Witherspoon). But as this is a pomo-noir, there's no place
for a world-weary detective. Instead, we get the academic (Brolin). Yet,
there are crosses and double crosses. Director Mike Barker working from
Ted Griffin's script (adapted from his own short story) manages to maintain
an appropriate level of tension, aided strongly by the atmospheric lensing
of Ben Seresin. The film only bogs down slightly in the early scenes
in which the premise is being established.
In what is essentially a three-hander (although Rocky Carroll offers
a fine turn in a small but pivotal part), Josh Brolin is saddled with the most
difficult role. As a rich preppy type cut off by his parents and caught in a
career-threatening situation, he is called upon to emote at a level of
hysteria that would defeat nearly any actor. Once he ratchets it down a
notch, he settles in and delivers a strong performance. I will admit that
I was not all that impressed with Reese Witherspoon but following her fine
work in CRUEL INTENTIONS and especially ELECTION, I have come
to admire her pluck and capabilities. In this film, she adds yet another
fine characterization to her growing body of work. Alessandro Nivola
previously has demonstrated his craft in showy supporting roles (like
Nicolas Cage's brother in FACE/OFF). As this marks one of his first
leading efforts, he proves more than capable.
BEST LAID PLANS is breezy and entertaining, a fine thriller that
marks a promising debut for director Barker and should help vault its
leading players to the next level of stardom.
MPAA Rating: R
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.