When Jessica King goes missing, all eyes turn to Annabelle Wilson. Not as a murder suspect, but as a clairvoyant. Many of the towns folk go to Annabelle for help, and Jessica's fiancée, Wayne Collins, turns to Annabelle for possible guidance. Annabelle feels that she can't help, but this doesn't stop her from constantly getting visions of Jessica's fate. Written by
The Gift is honest and true in the most amazing ways. The ensemble cast is superb in bringing the story to the screen.
I can say from my experience as a psychic that Billy Bob Thornton makes the psychic's life believably real – and Sam Raimi's directing along with Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Annie Wilson come together to seal the deal. Blanchett brings to Wilson's character understated grace and humility. When put in the position of having to use her gift to bring the murder of a local young woman (Katie Holmes) to the authorities' attention she reveals the burden of The Gift. It's a double entendre and cautionary tale wrapped in a two word title.
Hilary Swank's portrayal of Valerie Barksdale, a battered wife who seeks Wilson's aid is familiar to anyone who has witnessed spousal abuse. She captures that inexplicable dichotomy of the abused's recognition of her dire situation: she loves him, fears him, yet fears being alone even more. What Keanu Reeves (Donnie Barksdale) brings to the role a quality that some have said he doesn't achieve as an actor: realism. I have known a man like this and have no reason to ever know one again. There is nothing for me to learn on that road, yet I know others who have yet to learn that soul-sucking lesson. Reeves' evocation of anger, disdain, bullying and taunting all mistaken for indisputable power is true to the abuser's persona. What he tapped into when bringing this character to life is neither affectation nor caricature. The role reveals an unparalleled collaboration between him, Sam Raimi, and Billy Bob Thornton to be nakedly honest about cruelty. Reeves' interaction with Giovanni Ribisi in his role as Buddy Cole, another client of Wilson's who challenges Donnie Barksdale to shoot him, is particularly chilling. Anyone who has ever dealt with spousal abuse, regardless of what one thinks about psychic abilities, needs to see this movie.
The plot twists in predictable yet also surprising directions. What transpires will raise questions about reality as we know it, and how life isn't as certain as we might want to believe it is. Even psychic Annie Wilson learns from the ever-skeptical sheriff (J.K. Simmons) that what she thought was real was real – but in a different, inexplicable way. Isabeau Vollhardt, author, The Casebook of Elisha Grey
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