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4 items from 2000

The Gift

13 December 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Any film genre -- even the Southern gothic melodrama with its wayward belles, mental misfits and backwoods misbehavior -- can stand only so much hokum. But the makers of "The Gift" lay on the rustic nonsense awfully thick, peopling the tiny town of Brixton, Ga., with more "colorful" characters than any town -- or movie -- can tolerate.

A fine cast headed by Australian star Cate Blanchett struggles futilely to give life to these characters. Meant as a psychological thriller but more likely to be received by audiences as a burlesque of Southern stereotypes, "Gift"'s only chance theatrically is to be mistaken for high camp. The film opens this month for Academy consideration in Los Angeles before its Jan. 19 national rollout.

The script is by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, who know their way around this neck of the woods. Together, they wrote that fine Southern crime drama "Once False Move", and Thornton, of course, won an Oscar for his astonishing screenplay "Sling Blade".

But "Gift", whose central character possesses supernatural clairvoyance, emerges as a kind of "Sling Blade" meets "What Lies Beneath", and this proves to be a meeting that should never take place. Along with terrifying visions of a murdered girl's body, the movie traffics in nastiness ranging from adultery, child molestation and abuse of women to homicide, suicide and patricide by immolation.

Director Sam Raimi hues close to horror-film conventions, the kinds where a threatened woman enters a dark house alone or accompanies a potential killer into the woods without thinking these might be unwise moves.

Blanchett tiptoes through a minefield of unmotivated actions and implausible predicaments to deliver a credible performance as a widow with the "gift" of psychic vision. Among her clients are an emotionally unstable auto mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi) and the abused wife (Hilary Swank) of a redneck hothead (Keanu Reeves).

When a pretty, promiscuous young woman (Katie Holmes) goes missing, her fiance (Greg Kinnear) and father (Chelcie Ross) come by to see what Blanchett's visions tell her about the disappearance.

Reeves' character also drops by frequently to deliver threats against Blanchett and her three children in retaliation for her suggesting to his battered wife that she leave him. So when her psychic visions lead police to the body of the missing woman on Reeves' property, everything points to him as the murderer. Only Blanchett has second thoughts about her second sight.

There is little logic or plausible human behavior in most of the plot's erratic twists and turns. Courtroom scenes make little sense, and a climax between Blanchett and a potential killer might satisfy horror-thriller conventions but is not like to satisfy audiences.

Technical credits are pro, though Jamie Anderson's camera setups and Neil Spisak's production design tend to aid and abet Raimi's penchant for the predictable.


Paramount Classics

Lakeshore Entertainment/Alphaville

Producers: James Jacks, Tom Rosenberg

Director: Sam Raimi

Screenwriters: Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson

Executive producers: Gary Lucchesi, Gregory Goodman, Sean Daniel, Ted Tannebaum

Director of photography: Jamie Anderson

Production designer: Neil Spisak

Music: Christopher Young

Costume designer: Julie Weiss

Editors: Bob Murawski, Arthur Coburn



Annie Wilson: Cate Blanchett

Valerie Barksdale: Hilary Swank

Donnie Barksdale: Keanu Reeves

Buddy Cole: Giovanni Ribisi

Wayne Collins: Greg Kinnear

Jessica King: Katie Holmes

Gerald Weems: Michael Jeter

Linda: Kim Dickens

Running time -- 105 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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Emily's Back On Track To Stardom

2 May 2000 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British actress Emily Lloyd battled a crippling psychological disorder - but she's now back on the road to stardom. Emily who starred in the 1987 film Wish You Were Here (1987) developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder after a trip to India. Now 29, Emily says, "It's all sorted now and my advice to anyone suffering from the same thing is - it does get better and having confidence in yourself does help... I needed a lot of time just to get away and deal with it. Counselling and some medication helped too but it's not something I want to dwell on because I think it's important to look to the future." With the future in mind Emily has got her eye on the kind of roles Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett get. She adds, "I'd love to do an Emma (1996) or an Elizabeth (1998). If somebody came up to me now and offered me a role like that, I'd jump at the chance." »

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Cate Blanchett Cooks Up A Bombay Dream

21 April 2000 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Cate Blanchett has teamed up with Elizabeth (1998) director Shekhar Kapur to star in and co-produce a film version of BOMBAY DREAM. The Indian-born director is currently putting the finishing touches to a stage version of the musical, Bombay Dream, which he co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical will hit London's West End later this year. Blanchett, who has wanted to work with Kapur again since the filming of Oscar nominated Elizabeth (1998), is to turn her hand to producing, singing and acting in the tale of a native woman's struggle to survive in India. Kapur says, "Cate is going to co-produce and star in this film. She can sing and not many people know that about her... I believe we will start work on the project very soon... The film will be set in India and Cate will be playing a native." »

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Lord Of The Rings Gets Ladies

3 April 2000 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

A $200 million screen version of J.R.R. TOLKIEN's THE LORD OF THE RINGS is getting enhanced with romance. Director Peter Jackson, shooting the first of three films devoted to the saga, has drafted Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett to play ARWEN and GALADRIEL, whose roles have been extended in the screenplay. The love story between Arwen and ARAGORN, played by Viggo Mortensen, has also been given greater prominence. But Hobbit fans are up in arms, fearing the essence of the work will be lost. Enthusiast ALEX HORTON, 17, from Croydon fumes, "I don't see the point of messing with the elements of a story that has worked so long for lots of people." DR VINCENT GILLESPIE, professor of English at ST ANNE'S COLLEGE, OXFORD says, "Traditionally in Middle English tales men lead the action. It is fairly male-dominated stuff and women have either a domestic or a faerie representing `the other side'... The film could build reasonably, though, on the growing idea that women were powerful 'fixers' or 'peaceweavers' behind the scenes in these tales." »

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