THE GIFT, directed by Sam Raimi (A SIMPLE PLAN) and written by Billy Bob
Thornton (Oscar winner for SLING BLADE) and Tom Epperson (ONE FALSE MOVE),
is an entertaining psychological thriller and murder mystery. Even if the
formulaic plot suffers from a certain amount of predictability, the movie
has a superb cast who keep the tension up throughout.
Academy Award-nominee Cate Blanchett (ELIZABETH) delivers an empathetic
performance as Annie Wilson, the only psychic reader, a.k.a. fortune teller,
in a poor, small town. She also serves as a one-person support group for
all of the troubled people in town. One of these is Valerie Barksdale
(Hilary Swank, Best Actress winner for BOYS DON'T CRY), who is being abused
by her husband Donnie (Keanu Reeves). Giovanni Ribisi, who is best when
playing nut cases, plays Buddy Cole, an auto mechanic full of hidden demons
and another wounded soul being nurtured by Annie.
Annie is a fairly recent widow with 3 young boys to raise on her own.
Donnie, who thinks Annie is a witch, threatens her and her boys. In a side
story, Greg Kinnear plays the boys' principal, Wayne Collins, who is
currently engaged to Jessica King (Katie Holmes), a frisky young woman with
Into this soap opera of a story come a murder and a mystery. Of course,
Annie is asked to help out, and she reluctantly agrees. The script
carefully gives Annie less than laser sharp powers. Her visions cannot be
summoned at will. When she does sense something, she experiences it
personally. As she trembles with palpable fear, she witnesses frightening
events but frequently sees only small parts of a much larger episode.
Putting these mental puzzle pieces together in her head, she eventually
draws certain conclusions. Collecting the entire picture, however, is
frequently difficult or impossible for her.
Blanchett's acting alone is enough to recommend the movie. Annie is
saddened by all of the woes she has heard and frightened by the events
swirling around her. Her power itself appears to be more burden than
blessing. Trembling, she keeps awaking from nightmare visions that are
trying to reveal things to her so that she can help others. She is a
sensitive psychic who doesn't like to tell people the bad news that she sees
Bringing up the natural background sounds sometimes and using melancholic
instrumental country music at others, Raimi gives his movie a realism that
transcends the story's more sensational elements. I find that any movie, as
this one does, that features a trial is usually a cinematic gift. I'd trade
a dozen teen comedies for one exceptional trial. I rate the trial in THE
GIFT worth only two or three teen comedies. Still, a trial is a trial, and
I'm happy to be able to enjoy it.
THE GIFT runs 1:50. It is rated R for violence, language, sexuality and
nudity and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes