Best Laid Plans came and went so quickly last year that many people probably don't even know it exists. The film stars Reese Witherspoon and Allesandro Nivola and undoubtedly got more bad press than it deserved. The plot unfolds when Nivola's college buddy is accused of statutory rape and calls his friend for help. We then flash back to four months earlier when Nivola's character finds himself in a desperate situation over a drug deal gone bad and the film follows these two story lines until they converge. Along the way we're treated to a slew of crosses, double crosses and plot switchbacks that leave one's head spinning and culminate in a totally unexpected surprise ending. I don't want to give anything away so I'll leave it at that.
The first three-quarters of Best Laid Plans are very engaging and feature interesting performances by the two leads. A small cast of supporting characters does a nice job of adding depth to the experience and the grungy locations lend a semi-surreal feel to the film that's very satisfying. Unfortunately the whole thing seems to fall apart towards the end. I got the impression that the director was trying to force too many twists and turns into the film when he could easily have taken a more direct path. When the credits rolled I felt a little less than satisfied with the experience. Your mileage may vary.
Best Laid Plans was transferred from a pristine master and shows no signs of grain, compression artifacts or edge enhancement effects. The transfer is a little problematic though. The colors are a touch over saturated and seem to bleed a bit at the edges but not to the point of distraction. In addition, the entire transfer is a little dark and murky with black levels that are too deep leading to poor shadow detail. Much of the film takes place in daylight though so this isn't a major drawback.
The 5.1 soundtrack on Best Laid Plans also has some problems. The musical score, sound effects and foley are clean, clear and artfully mixed with plenty of nice surround activity and LFE signal but the dialogue exhibits a strangely limited dynamic range. It almost sounds like the production company used cheap microphones. This isn't the fault of the DVD transfer but seems inherent in the original sound elements. I found the dialogue hard to listen to at first (though it's easily understandable) but got used to it as the film progressed.
Fox is probably the most inconsistent studio when it comes to DVD extras. Some of their best titles are movie only editions while lesser films like Best Laid Plans get full special edition treatment. Extras abound on this disc. First of all there are two theatrical trailers and a number of TV spots. These are interesting because the film was in and out of theaters so fast that they never really had a chance to air much. Next there's a lame 'featurette' that runs less than five minutes and seems more like an extended TV ad than a real production documentary. The text screens with cast and crew information are limited to Witherspoon, Nivola, director Mike Baker and writer Ted Griffin. There are eight deleted scenes on the disc some of which lend insight to the directors post production attempts at tightening and clarifying the film but most are simply rejected takes and longer versions of the existing scenes. One of the deleted scenes is an alternate ending that left test audiences scratching their heads leading to a re-shoot months after the initial filming was done. Finally there's a commentary track with Mike Baker that is curiously devoid of interesting content. He talks about locations, actor motivations, scripting and camera work but none of his comments seem very enlightening. On the upside he does keep up with the onscreen action very well and doesn't leave any annoying gaps.
I found Best Laid Plans to be something of a disappointment. I went into this film wanting desperately to enjoy it (I'm a huge Reese Witherspoon fan) but felt empty and dissatisfied when it was over. Best Laid Plans is sure to appeal to many viewers but it just didn't do it for me. I'd suggest renting first before buying