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The Gift

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Gift

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Greg Kinnear
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: January 2001
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Gary Cole, Stuart Greer, Katie Holmes, Giovanni Ribisi, Hilary Swank, Michael Jeter, Danny Elfman

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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 wandering eyes.

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 coming.

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

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