The Gift

Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, and sexuality/nudity.

Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <>
January 22, 2001

There are many films that should be wonderful films and aren't. The plot is promising, and the casting seems flawless, but due to direction or a clunky script the movie disappoints or flat out fails. The Gift is one of those rare films that is far better than it should be. Its basic plot is tired and predictable, the "shocking" solution to the mystery just isn't shocking, and the director cast Keanu Reeves and Katie Holmes. But despite these handicaps the film is marvelous.

I don't want to give too much of the plot because I fear it will turn off viewers, so I will be brief. Cate Blanchett plays a Southern small-town widow and mother of three who is a professional psychic. She has typically troubled Southern clients, including an abused wife (Hilary Swank) and a mentally unstable car mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi). When a beautiful socialite disappears, the psychic becomes involved in the case, and of course she and her family are endangered.

BUT the movie is so much more than this stupid plot. Screenwriter Billy Bob Thorton has created extremely moving and interesting characters out of Southern stereotypes as well as a beautiful side story of a family trying to cope with the loss of the father. The writing completely saves the plot. Sam Raimi's direction is highly intelligent and gripping (although the constant suspense got a little tiresome near the end). Raimi even manages to make the predictable confrontation between the psychic and the killer tense and frightening. Raimi uses the camera not just to record the story but as an active part of the story telling. In one extremely effective shot, Keanu Reeves appears to slam Hillary Swank's face into the camera lens, causing the camera to shake violently as Swank's face smashes against it.

As far as acting goes, everyone is marvelous, with the exception of Keanu Reeves who is adequate and much better than I feared, and Katie Holmes, who is awful, but thankfully not in the film that much. Cate Blanchett is breathtaking. Greg Kinnear (as the socialite's financÚ) and Giovanni Ribisi also deserve special attention, as does Kim Dickens in a small but greatly effective comic turn as the psychic's best friend.

All in all, the acting, direction, and script successfully rescue this tired plot from the doghouse and make The Gift a film worth seeing .

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The Gift (2000)

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