The Gift (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner09/03/2001

Three out of fivestars
Running time: 111 mins

Atmospheric supernatural thriller that delivers the requisite shocks and just about overcomes its air of predictability, owing to a surprisingly good supporting cast and a solid lead performance from Cate Blanchett.

Co-written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, Sam Raimi’s latest film is a welcome return to the ‘small-town thriller’ mode of A Simple Plan after the disappointment of his last movie, the Kevin Costner-starring sentimental baseball drama For The Love of the Game.

The Gift is set in the small Southern town of Brixton, Georgia, where widowed mother Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) ekes out a living as a psychic, giving card readings and dispensing advice to the local townsfolk, such as Hilary Swank’s battered wife and Giovanni Ribisi’s deeply disturbed mechanic.

In addition to the townsfolk and their troubles, Annie and her three young sons are still struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband one year previously. Visiting her son’s school principal (Greg Kinnear), she meets his pretty young fiancée Jessica King (Dawson’s Creek’s Katie Holmes, filling out nicely into adult roles) and has a ghastly vision ("Whatsamatter? You see sump’n bad?") that later comes horrifyingly true and draws Annie deeper and deeper into the subsequent murder investigation after her ‘gift’ leads to the discovery of Jessica’s body…

Bearing a distinct resemblance to last year’s What Lies Beneath (psychic powers, ghostly figures, bodies underwater etc), The Gift more than makes up in atmosphere what it lacks in subtlety, since the actual ‘mystery’ elements are entirely predictable. However, Raimi cranks up the tension admirably and delivers the requisite amount of shocks, particularly in the eerily effective nightmare sequences.

The cast are surprisingly good, particularly Holmes and Ribisi (his two ‘freak-out’ scenes are definite highlights), with even Keanu Reeves (as Bearded Wife-Beating Redneck Donnie Barksdale) playing mean for once and managing to convince, if not quite as a redneck, then at least as a Nasty Piece of Work. (His Southern accent has improved since The Devil’s Advocate).

There’s also good support from Oscar-winner Hilary Swank and little-known bit-player Kim Dickens (last seen in Hollow Man). It’s Blanchett, however, who is the real stand-out, and the film’s success is largely due to her unshowy, yet utterly engaging performance. Hopefully, after this and Elizabeth, Hollywood will start to offer her more substantial roles.

As for Holmes, her presence in the film’s preposterously gratuitous nude scene will no doubt also ensure that the Hollywood offers keep coming In!

To sum up, then, this is a moderately entertaining thriller with a nice line in atmospheric chills and some great performances. Not great, but certainly not bad either. Worth watching.

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The Gift (15)
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Content updated: 22/03/2019 16:02

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