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Best Laid Plans

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 18, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

One can't help but think of "The Usual Suspects" while watching "Best Laid Plans". While the two films are not exactly similar, "Suspects" managed to keep the twists involving and the characters rich and complex. "Suspects" was also helped out by the stunning cinematography of Newton Thomas Siegel and the fiery score of John Ottman, not to mention a force of solid actors. In a film like this full of double and triple crosses, plot twists and turns, if we lose interest in the characters, we instantly lose interest in the film itself.

I don't want to give away too much of the film, so I'll walk around the plot. Two friends meet after several years to have a drink - things seem to be going well when later on one of the friends, Bryce (Josh Brolin) is accused of raping a girl named Lissa(Reese Witherspoon). The other friend, Nick(Alessandro Nivola) comes to help out, and from there, the plot begins to twist, and twist and twist, with no one's intentions as what they originally seemed.

"Best Laid Plans" is a movie where elements, scenes, moments work. They certainly don't add up to a film that works, though. The pace and the feel of the film are almost impressively slow, making twists feel clunky rather than sharp. It's all too moody for it's own good; more often than not, the film feels almost buried under its gloomy tone. Above it all, I couldn't find a reason to care about these characters, who seem so cold and unemotional that I had a hard time caring about which way they went. And off they go, on a film that feels like one too many twists were added to the pile, making it feel manipulative more than anything. While the performance from Alessandro Nivola is fairly interesting, Brolin doesn't do much at all with an already unlikable character. Witherspoon, a great actress, isn't given that much to do. Good actors, but none of them manage to make us want to follow the film through every spin.

"Best Laid Plans" is maybe worth a rental if your other possible choices are out.

The DVD

VIDEO: Fox put together a stunning looking image for their other anamorphic title ("The Thin Red Line"). That disc displayed image quality that I considered among the best of 1999 DVDs. While this second anamorphic effort from Fox is of very enjoyable quality, it's not without it's slight flaws. The image remains sharp and clear throughout, although shadow detail is slightly lacking. Colors are very bold and strong throughout this film, but the problem is that there is some minor bleeding in the colors. Nothing that is hugely distracting, though. No shimmer or pixelation, and a print used that is in excellent condition, with no marks or scratches. A few minor complaints, but still a very good effort. It's extremely unfortunate that Fox has taken this long to commit to do anamorphic for each release, and one can only hope that they do continue with this level of effort in the future.
Cinematographer: Ben Seresin("Circus")

SOUND: Here's where I had some problems. While I'm alright with the fact that this is a dialogue-driven film and there isn't much going on in terms of audio, it's the dialogue itself that bothered me. The dialogue has a very thin, low-volume feel to it that began to get on my nerves after a while. It's not unlistenable, but it makes it a little tough to get into the picture. The haunting score sounds fine, and drifts nicely throughout the room.
Production Sound Mixer: Reinhard Stergar, also production sound mixer on director Rob Cohen's "Daylight" and "Dragonheart".

MENUS:: Stylish main-menus with some slight animation and the score in the background.

EXTRAS:: A commentary from director Mike Barker and his assistant that is occasionally informative. Mainly focusing on production information, the discussion also talks about the actors, although the comments focused on the performers don't reveal anything new, just keeping with the usual "they were great" comments. Still, I found it to be a little better than the usual commentary and although I didn't find the film itself that enjoyable, I did find hearing the stories of the production moderately entertaining.

9 Deleted Scenes are interesting to watch, but I really don't think that any of them should have been included in the picture, or would have helped the movie. I did enjoy the menu for this feature, which has text information on what the scene is all about.

Also included are a 5 minute featurette with cast/crew interviews; 2 trailers/3 TV ads (which have a different feel than the movie itself does, I thought) as well as cast/crew bios.




Final Thoughts: "Best Laid Plans" is definitely not a total failure, and some certainly may enjoy its twists more than I did. My recommendation (especially at Fox's still high $34.95 retail price) is to check this out as a rental first.

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