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A Simple Plan (1998)
Music Composed by Danny Elfman (tracks 1-11)
Conducted by Artie Kane
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek
Additional Orchestrations by Edgardo Simone
Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy
Album Produced by Danny Elfman, Steve Bartek and Ellen Segal

Label (Catalogue): Compass III Records, (COM 0105)
Availability: Out of print
Purchasing options: Check secondary market

Back in September 1998, whilst whipped into a foaming frenzy, I viewed - no...experienced - Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. Such grace and restraint I never knew he posessed. In the shuffle of images (ever watch a film and it becomes completely surrealistic and completely erases your memory of the events?) I caught fleeting moments of Danny Elfman's staggeringly intricate score. A Simple Plan is in my estimation Danny Elfman at his most minmalistic. If it was possible to pare down the minutiae of Good Will Hunting into something even more refined and emotional, Danny Elfman has done it - this time with a trademark theme (heard in "Main Titles", "The Farm", "Death" and throughout the score in multiple iterations and variations). It is a theme central to the emotional structure of the film - as fragmented and distorted as Hank and Jacob Mitchell's sense of reality and morality, of things gone horribly wrong.

A Simple Plan is Danny Elfman's most abstract score and shows it's lineage from such downbeat masterpieces like Dolores Claiborne and hammered MIDI of Dead Presidents. The main theme is played both electronically and with beautiful, multiple flutes coupled with an ever present wash of strings. There's a de-tuned piano which matches up with an out of tune guitar which plucks sadistically as discordant shots from woodwinds represent the repetion of the film's black crow metaphor. "The Farm" is the full statement of "Jacob's Theme" - a variation on the main theme but this time played on woodwind and with great sorrow. "The Badge" is a piano pulsating cue that really heightens the tension in middle of the CD. As Hank (Bill Paxton) is forced to return to the plane once again for the film's climax, Elfman scores his cop station gun cabinet dilemma with racing strings and piano (much like "The Airfield" from Mars Attacks! and a similiar phrase from Article 99).

"Death" is a restatement of "Jacob's Theme" and underscores the film's emotional climax. Instead of overplaying the high dramatic punch (and believe me it is high drama!) the music is subtle, contained and minimal. I dare anyone to listen to this cue and not get misty eyed. This approach calls little attention to itself in the film, but supprts the action subconciously. We are now trained to associate Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) with this piece of music and as Hank and his brother face one last hurdle, we get restraint rather than the Hollywood paradigm to swell the orchestra into a crescendo. Danny Elfman has never failed to write an ass-kicker of a "Finale" cue and "Burning $" is no exception. The main theme is accentuated by major piano chords and synth hits with bells. Each beat cues with the onscreen action - fire, Hank, money and Sarah.

I like to describe A Simple Plan as a trip to the dentist. Your head hurts, your're sore and you feel slighty nauseated. This of course is a good thing, and both film and score manage to evoke this feeling brilliantly. A Simple Plan was Danny Elfman's best score for 1998 - perhaps in a few years. While it is minimalistic and at times harrowing, it can be considered complex and multilayered - certainly anything but "simple"!

Note: the company which released the A Simple Plan soundtrack was called Compass III. They changed their name shortly after to Chapter III. In June of 2001, they announced they were being absorbed into another company and effectively disappearing -- all this means that A Simple Plan has gone out-of-print. Don't wait to pick it up! - Ryan Keaveney

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Click for enlarged CD artwork
Click cover to enlarge
01. Main Title (4:44)
02. The Moon (0:57)
03. A Change Of Heart (1:07)
04. The Farm (1:30)
05. Betrayal Part 1 (3:15)
06. The Badge (1:08)
07. Stop It (1:39)
08. Tracks In The Snow (4:37)
09. Death (4:54)
10. Burning $ (1:50)
11. End Credits (5:11)
12. Preachin' The Blues (3:42)
Performed by Imperial Crowns
13. So Sleepless You (4:21)
Performed by Jolene
14. Deliver Me (4:50)
Performed by Tina & The B-Sides

Total score time: 30:52
Total running time:43:35

Danny Elfman's music at:

Contents Site Updates News Sound and Video Filmography Features Articles 99 Discussion Board Who Is Elfman? Links Send e-mail About This Site
All original text, original artwork Ryan Keaveney & Klaatu Media and cannot be copied without written consent. All other materials are by original authors / artists / labels and are presented here for critique, educational and promotional purposes only. Answers to frequently asked questions can be found on the Discussion Board. Additional questions or comments can be emailed to Ryan Keaveney.