Jimmy (Guy Pearce) is a smooth talking operator, a salesman who can sell anything to anyone thanks to his charisma. But Jimmy has a secret as he was responsible for his childhood friend, Vincent (Shea Whigham) being sent down for three years and who is now out on parole. When Jimmy's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere he doesn't pass up on the opportunity to try and sell to the small bar he ends up in but he also goes to see fortune teller Vacaro (J.K. Simmons) who not only sees Jimmy's past troubles but also suggests he is due for a windfall via the way of Dallas. But something freaks Vacaro out leaving him troubled during the reading which Jimmy thinks is part of the show, brushing it off in his usual glib manner. That is until the premonitions begin to come true and leads Jimmy down a road of paranoia as he starts to believe he has no control over his destiny including what Vacaro might have seen which disturbed him so much.
As someone who has browsed various books and websites which are about self help one thing I constantly come across is that we control our own future. But what if we don't, what if no matter what we do, how healthy we live, how hard we work we have no control over our future and we are all going to meet our maker at a specified time. It certainly would knock you for six if having lived your life in the belief you have control that suddenly you realise it doesn't matter. But what then if someone hinted that your days are numbered, heck that is going to push you over the edge right.
That is basically what "First Snow" is about, it is about Jimmy faced with the double whammy that not only does he have no control but his suspicions that he has no future. What we watch is the destruction of the man as he feels helpless and then becomes paranoid as things from his past come back to haunt his mind as to whether they will be the cause of his death such as a disgruntled employee he let go or the deep secret which he has buried in the back of his mind over his childhood friend. And it is interesting as director Mark Fergus whilst showing us the destruction of Jimmy through his paranoia also serves us the question of what his demise will be, will it be at the hands of a person or will it be through his own self destruction as he loses it.
Now there is one simple reason why this works and it is down to two pieces of casting with Guy Pearce being the perfect actor to play the role of a man who goes from sure to paranoid. He is convincing when it comes to the unravelling of his life and pulls it off without over playing the part even when he is playing the cocksure, glib salesman. But there is also J.K. Simmons who brings feeling and depth to the supporting role of Vacaro, a man who knows what he saw and is aware of the power of what he knows and Simmons keeps what could be a large character very controlled.
What this all boils down to is that "First Snow" is entertaining and one of those movies which causes you to pay attention and think about the characters. And as such it is a movie which works thanks to the perfect casting of Guy Pearce and J.K. Simmons.