The Gift (1994)

TV Short  |   |  Short, Drama
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Release Date:

30 October 1994 (USA)  »

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Nice script and good acting make for an interesting film that is damaged by sickly sentimentality
3 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Kathryn wakes up alone in her bed for the umpteenth time since being left by her long-term partner Joe. Despite not going to the gym this morning, Kathryn still wants to get over Joe and also work out what it is that men actually want so that she can try and get it. Her friends are very little help; some of them promote the virtues of plastic surgery while others deride it. With others trying to help her get over the hurt and move on with her life, however that is much easier said than actually done.

Directed by Laura Dern and featuring a comparatively all-star collection of actresses, this is an interesting film that looks at breaking up and moving on as a single person. The film starts with a nice touch of humour as friends contradict each other with advice and remains interesting as Kathryn tries to reconcile herself with what has happened to her and find some sort of peace to allow her to move on with her life. It is interesting enough thanks to some good dialogue and performances but Dern seems determined to infuse the film with such a strong sense of sentiment that it is hard to get past it into the meat. Indeed the ending is such a sickly moment that you would struggle to make it worse – until, that is, you realise Dern is ending it with a sappy Annie Lenox song! Outside of the direction though the script is interesting and natural enough to be enjoyable. The cast rise to this and do pretty well all told. Steenburgen is a bit stuck with the mood of the film and she struggles as she is made part of the sickly sentimentality but, freed of this, she is pretty good. The support cast are all minor cameos but are all good in their own way. Bonnie Bedelia, Diane Ladd and Isabella Rossellini are all interesting and have nice dialogue to work with as well as having good presence.

Overall this is an OK film that is well written and well acted. It is slight of course, but this is part of it being a short film and is not a problem. However what is a problem is the heavy sentimental hand that Dern has applied to it – making it so hopeful it is sickening and certainly not the reality that many of us realise when it comes to ex-partners.

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