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In a small town deep in the South, a single mother endowed with a special
ability becomes involved with the disappearance of a young woman and has a
brush with the supernatural, in `The Gift,' directed by Sam Raimi. Cate
Blanchett stars as Annie Wilson, a young widow attempting to raise her
kids and provide a decent life for her family, scraping out a living on
Social Security since the tragic death of her husband in a work related
accident the previous year. She supplements her meager income by doing
`readings' for the local townsfolk, accepting their donations for the
insights she offers them into their own lives. Annie has a `gift,' the
ability to see certain things in the cards that enables her to advise her
clients about personal issues. It's something she can't explain; she knows
only that it's inherited (which she learned from her grandmother), and that
it's real. And though it's helped her maintain her home, she soon finds
that it doesn't always make for the most pleasant of situations, as when
must advise a young woman, Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), on how to cope
with her abusive husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves), or attempt to help a
troubled young man, Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi) come to terms with some
sensitive aspects of his life. Then, when a client comes to her to ask for
help when his daughter disappears, not only does it take her to the dark
side of the human experience, she discovers that certain individuals,
including local sheriff Pearl Johnson (J.K. Simmons) do not believe that
`gift' is real.
Stylistically crafted and delivered, Raimi's film will keep you engrossed and on the edge of your seat until the very end. He successfully blends reality with just a touch of the supernatural that makes for riveting suspense while keeping it within the realm of believability. The relationship played out between Donnie and Valerie is anything but unique-- you've seen this before, many times in many films-- but within the context of this story it's fresh and it works. The doubtful sheriff and the cynical, jaded defense attorney, Gerald Weems (Michael Jeter), are fairly stereotypical, but that can be easily overlooked in light of the overall story and especially due to the credibility of the Annie character, which is well developed and never presented as anything beyond what can be readily accepted as true to life. As the central character, Annie anchors the film and enables the circumstances in which she is involved to be perceived as real; it's the strength of the film, and it's what makes it all work so well.
What also makes it work is the strong performance by Cate Blanchett, who makes Annie so real and accessible, displaying her `gift' with restraint and avoiding the possible pitfall of taking it too far over the edge, which could easily have made it suspect. Instead, she brings a depth to the character that draws you into her world and allows you to empathize with her, which would have been impossible had she invested Annie with even a touch of the charlatan. With consummate skill, Blanchett creates a well rounded character which demonstrates that as an actor, she definitely has a very real `gift' of her own.
Ribisi also does a memorable turn as Buddy, with a striking performance in which he creates some disturbing moments that are almost painful to watch; his is a character study of a soul in distress, seeking solace and resolution, and even as he attempts to sort out his life, you are able to sympathize with his plight as you share Buddy's experiences. And it's through Buddy (as well as Annie, of course), that the audience is able to make that necessary and very real connection with the film. With films like `Saving Private Ryan' and now this one, Ribisi is on his way to establishing himself as one of the premiere character actors in the business today.
Playing somewhat against type, Reeves proves that he can be a good `bad' guy, giving possibly one of his best performances ever as Donnie. He very credibly conveys that sense of explosiveness lying just beneath the surface that makes his character menacing and dark, which in turn makes Donnie psychologically as well as physically threatening. It's a good job by Reeves, who deserves credit for taking on a role that is so disagreeable and insensitive.
The supporting cast includes Greg Kinnear (Wayne), Katie Holmes (Jessica), Kim Dickens (Linda), Gary Cole (David) and Rosemary Harris (Annie's Granny). A taut thriller that is emotionally involving, `The Gift' delivers what it promises early on, which is exceptional, as many films of this nature often fail to actually follow through after a tremendous opening act. Rest assured, this one does and has it all; suspense, credibility and some memorable moments, all courtesy of Raimi, a good story and a superb cast. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
In The Gift, Cate Blanchett is blessed(or cursed?) with the ability to sense
things that no ordinary person
can see. She is asked by the police to aid in the search of a missing
person and what follows, is a journey
into the supernatural. Sam Raimi knows how to set up a scene for the
maximum scare potential. Honed on
his Evil Dead series, Raimi lets a scene begin slowly and allows the viewer
to sense the dread and feel the
suspense build. There are visual tricks, interesting camera techniques and
the fine performances by a very
talented cast that propel this story forward. Among this cast that really
stands out is Keanu Reeves.
People have always complained that Reeves brings down a movie. At least
some of the people I know. I
prefer to think that Reeves is an underrated actor. In the role of Donny
Barksdale, Reeves brings a certain
menace to his character that usually isn't scene in his other roles.
Barksdale isn't a creature of the night,
or a space alien, but a flesh and blood creature that is capable of true
evil. When you watch him, look at his
eyes and you'll see a true menace lurking behind those dark brown eyes.
Cate Blanchett shows that she can
master just about any accent that's out there. She sounds like she's a
native of the south and she has a
quiet courage about her. Most notable when she's squaring off against
All in all, The Gift is a wonderfully atmospheric thriller. It has brains and doesn't insult the viewers. It will keep you hooked up until the very end, and there are quite a few surprises throughout the film. Highly entertaining, and very spooky at times.
'The Gift' is an understated, underrated thriller which succeeds in
captivating one's attentions from beginning to end. The film's main
strengths are its screenplay, its beautiful mise-en-scene, a strong
cast and a haunting soundtrack (those of you who enjoyed 'The Shipping
will recognise the composer from the lilting score of that film)
But perhaps 'The Gift's' main attribute is the presence of the wonderful Cate Blanchett. Although I loved the film, I was forced to wonder if in the hands of a less capable actress, whether it would have had the same captivating power. Somehow I think not. Cate Blanchett's restrained portrayal of Annie exudes compassion and tenderness, and is integral to the success of the film as a whole. Her sensitivity as an actress is important in relation to the subject matter - ESP and the occult - as these areas generally attract much scepticism. Blanchett, through her unique skill as an actress, manages to make the more fantastical elements of the story not only plausible, but intensely moving. She is luminous to watch, reminding me of the (also magnificent) Meryl Streep in terms of her quiet beauty, her range of expression and her adept skill at accent mimicry. Who could believe that she is Australian?
In short, 'The Gift' is well worth seeing, primarily for Cate Blanchett, but also for the supporting actors Keanu Reeves (very impressive and effective) Hilary Swank (underused) and the magnificent Giovanni Ribisi - who is both explosive and reticent as Buddy Cole. Also demanding attention is the imaginative screenplay, and the hauting beauty of the mise-en-scene which manages to be both beautiful and eerie at the same time. Overall, 'The Gift' is a resounding success, due mainly to the heart of the film - Cate Blanchett's resonant performance. The actress has a unique gift herself, which richly deserves to be seen by many.
Sam Raimi has a bit of folklore to him, at least in t horror movie
His story with Evil Dead is one that tells us that if you really believe
what you are doing and have an undeniable passion for it, you can succeed
with an indie. Evil Dead was that film for Raimi. Now that he has bigger
budgets and better casts, one could expect him to fail, but with terrific
films like A Simple Plan and now this one, he proves that he does possess
gift as a film maker. The Gift takes him back to his roots as a horror
director and he doesn't disappoint. The Gift is a tight, tense film with
some questionable weakly written court room scenes, but take that away and
you have a very effective thriller.
The Gift has an all star ensemble cast that takes everything they are given and shines with it. Cate Blanchet is awesome to watch as the small town clairvoyant that some people look upon with utter reverance and others disregard as nothing more than a Satan worshipper. Keanu Reeves is very effective as a wife abusing husband and Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Giovanni Ribisi and Gary Cole are all very good in their roles. I especially liked Reeves as the wicked wife beater. I grew to hate his character and not just because he was a wife beater, but because he was such a smug, "I'm above the law" wife beater. I like seeing the smaller and perhaps more challenging roles Reeves is taking in between his billion dollar turn as Neo.
When a local town aristocratic beauty disappears, all fingers point towards Reeves as the murderer. He was having an affair with the girl, he has a violent temper, and he has scratch marks all over him from her and most importantly she was found dead in his swamp on his property. That is pretty compelling evidence against him. Also, Annie, the clairvoyant had visions about her whereabouts being located on his property. But soon after his impending incarceration, Annie begins to have other thoughts. She thinks the wrong man has been put away and now she fears that the real killer is going to come after her.
What The Gift benefits from, besides great performances, is tight direction. Raimi shows us here why it is that he got his start as a horror director. There are at least half a dozen scenes that are tense and frightening. When Annie is having her visions of death and sees dead women in trees and in bathtubs and such, there are collective gasps of fear in the audience. And when she is visited by ghosts or visions of people, you feel the heart race a little faster. This is not to say that the film is flawless because it's not. The flaws come from the writing of the court case where there is so much heresay and such that any good lawyer would have jumped all over the defense's case. When a man is being tried for murder and your defense is questioning how you came to know where the body was, they are two different issues. Why does it matter if an elephant told you where the body was or if you happened to fish it out of the pond with a crane. The point is that the body was there and it was on the accused's property and the accused had scratch marks on his arm from the deceased. That in my book is a pretty simple case. I was disappointed with how Thorton wrote the court room scenes but that is about all I was disappointed with.
The Gift is not one of the best horror films I've ever seen, but it is an enjoyable one and if I had to compare it to another similar one to it, I would have to say that this was better than What Lies Beneath. I think Zemekis is a great director but Raimi just has that certain intangible quality about him. He can make suspense out of something when perhaps there is none there. This is worth seeing and if you are a horror fan or just like a few thrills in your film, this'll keep you entertained.
8 out of 10- a good creepy horror film with a few genuine scares and a plethora of great performances.
Cate Blanchett's performance alone make this solid thriller worth watching.
I saw her in this movie, and I became baffled as to why she wasn't
considered for an Oscar nomination. She carries this film on her
and never once budges. Not only does she totally get rid of her Australian
accent and perfectly don a Southern accent, but she gives a deep, powerful
performance as the innocent widow, Annie Wilson, who is looked down by many
in her community but simply wants to share her psychic gifts with her
willing clients. Blanchett communicates great emotion with a simple facial
Of course, I also have to give it up for the multi-talented supporting cast. Though most of them, with the exception of Hilary Swank, couldn't really nail down the Southern accent, they are absolutely terrific. The only actor I felt was miscast was Katie Holmes. Not only is her accent phony and over-the-top, but she just seems too young and innocent for the role. Giovanni Ribisi, on the other hand, is a revelation. I knew, ever since his breakthrough performance in "Suburbia," that he had great promise as an up-and-coming actor, but in "The Gift" he delivers his most powerful performance up-to-date. I would even argue that he deserved an Oscar nod. He constantly stirs up sympathy in his audience, despite his mental instability and momentary outbursts of anger. I was also extremely impressed with Keanu Reeves, who delivers a genuinely haunting performance. It's times like this where I just can't fathom why many people still insist on picking on Keanu, regarding him as dull and cardboard. Personally, I thought he was great ever since his emotional performance in "Permanent Record." But he better demonstrates his versatility as an actor as the abusive Donny. He made his debut, as a villain, in the throwaway thriller "The Watcher," but I found him much more haunting in this role. Plus, he sports a rugged look, totally shedding his pretty-boy image. Greg Kinnear is good and subtle, and Hilary Swank continues to flaunt her brilliant acting abilities as the vulnerable wife of Donny who constantly takes beatings from him, yet still maintains her love for him.
The story is very intriguing, revolving around a cast of colorful characters. This isn't a "scary" movie as it somewhat looks in the previews, but it is full of mystery and thrills, without cheaply going for shock value. There is a nifty twist at the end, which is credible and not thrown from left field, but the plot isn't packed with surprises. We're simply going along on an emotional journey, through the mind of our protagonist, Annie, and that's how the tension is created. Sam Raimi creates a haunting mood and Billy Bob Thornton wrote a fine script. The story is easy-to-follow, and not as mind-bending as some of these other supernatural thrillers. Just keep in mind that this is not a horror movie. But it's a good mystery and a good mood piece and a damn good film altogether.
My score: 7 (out of 10)
Southern psychic and widowed mother of three is pulled against her will into the logistics of a popular local girl's disappearance. Although the brutality inherent in the script is laid on with a trowel, "The Gift" has many mesmerizing attributes, not the least of which is Sam Raimi's assured direction and the casting of luminous Cate Blanchett, sensational in the lead. Anyone who has seen Kevin Bacon's "Stir Of Echoes" will notice some curious similarities, but I found this movie much preferable, as it uses a terrific ensemble cast to its full advantage, and weaves a plot that is by turns outrageous and completely absorbing. I bought right into "The Gift" and stayed with it breathlessly every step of the way. *** from ****
THE GIFT (2000)
The Gift is one of the most intriguing suspense movies I've seen in a while. I'll admit the movie is pretty slow in its beginning, but when it starts to get to the murder information and readings, this movie picks up speed and brilliance. I did notice the film was generally slow to develop its characters a bit more, but I did find it a tad boring at the start. Sam Raimi is an amazingly focused director. With this movie, he betters his last effort For Love of the Game by a long shot. He makes the movie very atmospheric and the movie succeeds in its eeriness and excellence thanks to him. What really makes The Gift as spine-tingingly great as it, however, is the ensemble cast and their performances. Cate Blanchett leads the way with a brilliant performance. She literally becomes her character and works well in this thriller. They couldn't have cast her better. Giovanni Ribisi is highly believable in this film, his character is a sad one and we feel sympathy for him. Keanu Reeves displays a great performance as the wife-bashing freaky guy. His scenes are some of the most powerful ones and Keanu has rarely been better. Supporting performances from the sexy Katie Holmes, the highly talented Greg Kinnear and the masterful Hilary Swank all satisfy. This film is a highly original one, and the story will stick with you long after the credits roll. The script is one of the most engrossing and surprisingly heartfelt horror scripts to be written in a long time. Watch this movie at night with the lights off, a bag of chips and get ready for a chilling and interesting ride that will make you shake in your boots and your brain work overtime.
I thought THE GIFT was going to be another of those clichéd tales
involving a fortune teller , but as soon as the credits revealed that
the director was the underrated Sam Raimi I suddenly started hoping
that this was going to be a good film and my expectations were more
Raimi is probably best known for his SPIDERMAN blockbuster and the EVIL DEAD films , but I can't help thinking he's far better suited to human dramas like this film and A SIMPLE PLAN . Part human drama on being an outsider , part court room drama , part whodunnit and part supernatural mystery THE GIFT could have ended up as an unfocused mess but Raimi pulls it off . A word too for Raimi's handling of the cast , all the performances are very good . As you'd expect from such a talented actress Cate Blanchet is excellent , but Keannu Reeves is a shock as a redneck scum bag . I won't go so far as to say he steals the show but as a confirmed Reeves hater I found his performance totally convincing . Praise indeed
In terms of pace , intelligence and characterisation Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson have written a very good script , but I have one genuine complaint regarding forensics . In the court scenes evidence is presented , but there is nothing regarding forensic evidence which does lead to a fairly big plot hole . If I remember correctly A SIMPLE PLAN also suffers slightly from the screenwriter not doing his homework regarding forensics . But I suppose I can forgive this because of a haunting and touching shock twist at the end . If you've seen THE GIFT you'll know what I'm talking about , if you haven't then I won't spoil it for you . The only problem with the twist is that after you've seen it the second or third time it's not as moving or touching as it was the first time
Enjoyed this movie from beginning to end. Great acting, good writing and directing. Kept me engrossed from start to finish and that is saying a lot as not many movies hold my complete attention for that long. The acting of the whole ensemble was adequate but primaries especially did well with their roles. Keanu Reeves was very convincing as a backwoods wife beater and Hillary Swank played her part as the long suffering wife to a tee. Cate Blanchette was excellent as Annie Wilson, gave just the right touches to be realistic as I do know of several "seers" in real life and she captured their essence completely in my opinion.
The Gift is a film about sex and murder in a small town. Sam Raimi camera angles and visual flair are beautiful. The Gift makes up for his previous flop For Love Of The Game. Cate Blanchett is great in the lead role as are Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank and Katie Holmes who has a greta nude scene. Rent this film for a great night of chills and a film that will keep you guessing.
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