“ Genre: Crime & Thriller - Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2001 / Director: Sam Raimi / Actors: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi ... / DVD released 17 July, 2001 at Paramount / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC „
* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 2000, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 112 mins
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
PRODUCERS: James Jacks, Gary Lucchesi & Tom Rosenberg
SCREENPLAY: Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson
MUSIC: Christopher Young
Cate Blanchett as Annie
Giovanni Ribisi as Buddy
Greg Kinnear as Wayne
Keanu Reeves as Donnie
Hilary Swank as Valerie
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The Gift is set somewhere in the deep south of the USA, in a small town where widowed mother of three boys is a psychic, and gives readings to some of the locals.
When Wayne's fiancée vanishes, the local police reluctantly, due to their cynicism, turn to Annie for help in trying to establish what may have happened to the missing girl.....and during the proceedings, Wayne and Annie develop an attraction towards one another.
Meanwhile, Annie is at loggerheads with Donnie, a very unpleasant individual, who resents her giving Valerie - the wife who he batters - readings, believing that Annie has told Valerie she must leave him. As Donnie becomes more unpleasant and threatening, Annie fears for the safety of her children and herself.
Another of Annie's clients, Buddy, is going through a hard time emotionally whilst attempting to come to terms with some of the things his father had done to him, and he becomes very dependent on Annie's support. Not only does Annie provide a listening ear to Buddy's deep-rooted problems....she is also concerned about one of her sons whose behaviour has become increasingly erratic since the death of his father, a year earlier.
The first thing The Gift did, just after the opening credits rolled, was make me jump out of my skin. There were a few other occasions where I almost shot through the ceiling during the film, but these were caused by very loud noises and unexpected screenshots, rather than anything intended to frighten the viewer....but, such did draw my attention immediately and I sat totally absorbed, from start to finish.
The acting is very good from the whole main cast, particularly that of Cate Blanchett as Annie, the down to earth and sensible mother who uses her psychic gifts to help and support people, but at times her visions and dreams deeply disturb her. Keanu Reeves acted the part of the evil-looking wife-batterer Donnie very well, and Hilary Swank did a great job in her role as Valerie, his downtrodden 'lights are on but nobody's at home' other half. I also was impressed with Greg Kinnear's performance as nice guy schoolteacher Wayne, frantic to find out what had happened to his fiancée, yet finding himself simultaneously attracted to Annie.
However, my favourite actor was Giovanni Ribisi, who wonderfully played the part of the emotionally traumatised Buddy. He expressed Buddy's volatility and changing moods with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, beautifully coming across as a gentle-natured yet very troubled young man, who is capable of some extreme outbursts of highly-charged emotion when something triggers him.
As far as the music is concerned, although I had a vague awareness of it, I was so absorbed in the film that I didn't really notice it enough to make any judgments upon its worth or otherwise.
The atmosphere which runs through The Gift is very well set early on in the film, but although this is I suppose a sort of supernatural thriller - well it is around the edges - everything is presented with a day-to-day, down-to-earth authenticity, and I felt as though I was being treated to a glimpse of the lives of small southern states community as if it was real rather than fictional. The main storyline of Annie being called upon to help the police find out what happened to Wayne's fiancée runs neatly side by side with the sub-plots of sparring husband and wife team Donnie and Valerie, plus Buddy's involvement in Annie's life. All three plot lines do interconnect, but seamlessly and there are no disjointed or awkward stretches in the film, as it flows in and out of itself perfectly.
I can't say that the surface of the main plot is particularly original, but for me in this case it didn't matter, as The Gift is a very interesting, absorbing and fairly gripping film which is very professionally acted, produced and directed. One part of the ending is fairly predictable, but again I found such to be of no significance, due to the overall enjoyment factor being 100%. There is also a little twist at the very end which I also saw coming, but again it didn't matter, as I truly enjoyed every moment of this extremely good film.
There is a little bit of violence in The Gift, together with a little bit of swearing and a couple of very brief sexual scenes, but they are all tastefully presented. One remark made by one cast member (not from the main cast) close to the beginning did actually make me laugh, although the remainder of the film is deathly serious.
In summary, The Gift is a very well-acted, professionally-presented film which drew me right into its heart, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute...yes, even the loud noises that made me jump. It isn't a film which would appeal to slasher movie addicts, and it isn't scary in the supernatural sense, as that part totally revolves around Annie's psychic abilities, but it is a solid film which I was totally engrossed in from start to finish, and I'd heartily recommend it to anybody. Perhaps it might not hold universal appeal due to the intertwining of the main story and the sub-plots, plus the predictability factor, but I personally loved it and would definitely watch it again.
On a final and lighter note, I did notice a tiny mistake in The Gift in that at one point, Annie was walking out of her house carrying something....yet, once outside of her door, she wasn't carrying it any more!
At the time of writing, The Gift can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.50 to £9.87
Used: from £2.35 to £9.87
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
The Gift is a pretty good crime thriller and a film I would recommend seeing as it is well worth the cost of the rental or you can look out for it on TV. Cate Blanchett is very good in the lead role as Annie Wilson who lives with her four sons after her husband passed away. The film is set in the deep south of America either Louisiana or Alabama I assume given the accents and the creepy scenery with old wooden buildings and some strange local inhabitants.
Annie makesa living as a psychic giving advice to the locals, Hilary Swank plays one of her clients as a batterred housewife while Keanu Reeves is the violent husband, Giovanni Ribisi also stars as a mentally disturbed mechanic and he delivers a fine performance. When a wealthy woman goes missing the local police soon exhaust all possible leads and then they take the surprising step of calling on Annie to try and use her powers, this soon pitches her into a nightmare series of situations in what becomes a tense and at times scary manhunt.
I liked the way that the tension built slowly right from the very start in this film, while at times it can be a little predictable the use of dream scenes that turn to nightmares is very effective and the characters all become more strange and threatening during the film.
There are some strong performances from all the lead characters and Blanchett does a great job of presenting Annie as an outwardly weak character but with a strong hidden depth to her. Hilary Swank as the batterred wife is also very good playing the part very convincingly. I did find it a bit hard to understand Ribisi character some of the time as he mumbles a bit.
The only real criticism I have is that the plot took a while to get going but that is only really a minor thing to complain about as the rest of the film was tension filled and delivered some good plot twists. Definitaly recommended as a good viewing experience.
Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is a struggling widow with three boys trying to make ends meet in her small bayou town. In addition to what she receives from Social Security, she accepts donations for psychic readings. Annie has regular clients who range from half-wild bayou boys to a typical abused wife of a more civilized redneck. She might have continued to struggle from day to day in her quiet anonymity, if it weren't for Jessica King (Katie Holmes).
Jessica is the spoiled daughter of a prominent citizen and fiancee of Wayne Collins (Greg Kinear), the charming and sincere principal at the local school where Annie's eldest has been getting into fights. From the day she meets Jessica in Wayne's office, she is disturbed by troubling visions surrounding the couple. When Jessica disappears, her loved ones fear the worst. When all the usual efforts yield nothing, her father turns to Annie hoping her gift will reveal the whereabouts of his beloved daughter.
Annie's visions start coming fast and vivid, but a gift like Annie's doesn't always make things clear. When a body is found and suspicion falls on Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves), Annie's life of quiet homely worries explodes into a small town scandalous whirlwind that may cause more damage than it wipes out! Barksdale's bigoted and violent ways had found a foothold in the Wilson home through his abused wife sneaking to Annie for readings, and folks have to wonder if Annie is just trying to get some of her own back on him.
Good ol' boys are willing to turn a blind eye to a lot, even to the horrible harassment of Annie and her boys, but murdering a sweet Georgia peach like Jessica? Barksdale may find he's bitten off more than he can chew by carrying on with Jessica, and matching wits with Annie. Annie's is growing more fearful and restless though. With each passing day, events are distracting her from the messages her gift is trying to make clear, and Annie is beginning to wonder if Donnie had anything to do with Jessica's murder at all! What's a backwater psychic to do?
~~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
Directed by Sam Raimi and written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tome Epperson, this 2000 film was quite a pleasant surprise for me. Much more grown up than I had expected and with a quiet sense of realism that grounds the subject matter quite well. There were many homey touches and moments of routine life that really added to the film; Annie picking up toys at the end of the day, her poor choice in paint colors, the help extended by her troubled friend Buddy (the fabulous Giovanni Ribisi), the attitudes of the small town police force, the swift consumption of cake icing by her youngest, and even the predictable betrayal of her friendship by the abused Valerie Barksdale (Hillary Swank) all helped to create a very real world for these characters to exist in.
Annie's character is very compassionate and quietly sensible on most topics. She misses her husband, and her quiet longing for what might have been if he had listened to her warnings is a good background for her entry into this situation. Struggling with her own worries over the behavior of her eldest, making ends meet, trying to help her more troubled or less knowledgeable clients, and providing for her still grieving family humanizes Annie, which really helps to make her extraordinary gift appear as a natural part of her daily life.
Giovanni Ribisi is just fabulous as Buddy Cole. Buddy is clearly disturbed and we know there is something else going on with him, but like Annie, first time viewers are usually so distracted by her troubles that we shrug off his needs just as she does, with equal measures of exasperation and regret. His flashes of kindness, his struggle to hold on to his polite southern boy demeanor, and his enormous love for the only person who has ever been a true friend to him are utterly disarming. The Gift would not be the excellent and entertaining film it is without Ribisi's performance.
Greg Kinear and Keanu Reeves were quite interesting casting choices for these roles. Without giving away too much, I would have to simply say that they were well chosen. Kinear fans will enjoy Wayne's sincerity and hesitant charm. Those who can't stand Reeves will enjoy watching him play the violent redneck being brought to justice. Reeves fans may even enjoy this departure from his usual roles, I know I did.
Watching this again recently, I couldn't help admiring Katie Holmes. The role here is relatively small, and, other than the accent, not a huge challenge. Yet, she breezes through Jessica's many moods effortlessly. It was almost hard not to like her even when you see her for what she really is, and that takes talent. Mad Money out this year, is her first role in three years, and looking back at earlier performances like this... I'm hoping she'll reclaim her rights as an individual and start taking on more jobs.
The Gift is a good suspense film, but it could easily stand as a drama. For me a good drama portrays a slice of someones life, and many lives are displayed here to great advantage. The supernatural element adds some definitely creepy moments, but it also illustrates the complex beauty of life very well. Don't look to this film for terrifying thrills or mind-blowing supernatural events. This is definitely not a horror film or even a thriller, despite the subject matter. Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes, comparable films, had more twists and scare moments, in my opinion.
Danny Elfman cameos as the eerie fiddler in Annie's visions, and Raimi fans will probably recognize the Delta 88 Oldsmobile that has appeared in almost everyone of his films. I had a good chuckle over it's condition here. Also, anyone who knows a thing or two about card reading can tell instantly that Annie isn't using a tarot deck, but rather Zener cards, traditionally used to test for ESP abilities! This subtly reinforces the notion that Annie only uses these as a focus for her gift, and was rather a nice touch.
Small town scandal, struggling families, even the murder of a promiscuous woman are not extraordinary events, but this film does a wonderful job of highlighting the miraculous hidden in plain sight every day. Thoughtful, deliberately paced, and subtly intriguing, The Gift is just as entertaining eight years after it's original release, and many viewing later.
Annie Wilson is a young widow living in the American Deep South with her three young sons. Annie is apparently gifted with psychic powers, which she uses to support herself and her family financially by giving the towns inhabitants card readings. Her regular customers include a mentally disturbed garage mechanic and a battered wife who refuses to see the evil in her husband. When a wealthy young local woman goes missing, the police finally turn in desperation to Annie, to see if her psychic abilities may reveal a clue as to the whereabouts of the missing woman. But even Annie is not prepared for the terrifying chain of events that the womans disappearance has set in motion and very soon finds herself in a race against time to expose the womans killer before another victim is claimed.
With a horror CV that includes Evil Dead 1 and 2 youd expect director Sam Raimi to be able to make a scary movie. His 2000 movie, The Gift, promised to be just that, but in reality it fell well short of the mark.
It would be incorrect to say that The Gift is suspense-free. Raimi certainly conjures up an atmosphere of superstition, dark menace and danger and whilst some of his techniques may be considered as cliched, they still make you jump. There is a growing sense of dread right from the outset of this film. Every character that is introduced seems just that bit more desperate than the last and a complex web of interaction quickly develops between them all. The deep Southern setting lends itself well to the events that take place. There is no shortage of creepy locations in the old wooden houses and dark swamps and it will come as no surprise to learn that much of the film is set at night.
Throughout the film, Annie experiences visions or dreams surrounding the disappearance of the local woman, but these are never over done or gratuitous. The shock experienced by Annie is shared by the audience when a gentle bedtime sequence is suddenly jolted into a nightmare scenario. It is these sequences that give the film its darkest moments, but keep your wits about you, as there are all sorts of clues locked up within each of the dream sequences.
The standard of acting throughout the film is universally excellent but a cursory glance at the cast list will give this away from the outset. Cate Blanchett (always a fine performer) is superb as Annie although Cates English beauty was rather at contrast with her bleak surroundings. Blanchett portrays Annie as a weak woman with a hidden inner strength but she is not your usual pathetic female, and I always believed in the characters abilities. Hilary Swank is excellent as the local battered wife, and Keanu Reeves takes a dark new turn as her psychotic husband, a role he seems to have relished as he promptly went on to play a serial killer in The Watcher. Giovanni Ribisi is excellent as the disturbed mechanic Buddy. I sometimes had trouble understanding what he was saying but he is extremely convincing, and genuinely frightening at times.
So with so much praise so far, why was I so disappointed?
Firstly, the film was very slow to build. I expected the plot to gather pace much more quickly than it did, and by about half way I was starting to lose interest. There is just enough going on to hold your attention, but I thought that the dark nature of the film could have been capitalised much further and a really creepy film could have been constructed. Secondly, upon reflection the plot of the film is actually relatively simple and contains long sequences that I thought were out of step with the theme. Some of the film is taken up in a courtroom, where suspense and the unknown play little part. When the film was finished, I looked back and realised that nothing came as any real surprise to me. Certainly the plot twists as you might expect, but not enough. Finally, this film simply wasnt scary enough. The 15 certificate was an indication that it wasnt a shocker, but there were none of those really jumpy moments that I love so much.
The DVD package is also surprisingly lacklustre. There is a Behind The Scenes featurette which lasts no more than ten minutes and is actually a glorified trailer. There are short cast interviews that add nothing to the film, and are actually quite patronising. The discussion with the actors is completely impersonal (watch it before the film and it will spoil some surprises; watch it afterwards and it seems very dull). There are a selection of television trailers (pointless), and a selection of radio trailers (even more pointless) and the animated intro advertised on the case is really just an interactive menu. The running time of the movie is only 107 minutes, and the extras add no more than 20 minutes in total, which makes the DVD a relatively poor value purchase.
I was wondering whether I was expecting just a bit too much from The Gift. Hype can be a bad thing, and I may have anticipated this just a bit too much. Its certainly not a bad film; its just not as good as I was expecting
Im not a huge fan of supernatural thrillers, but I have a lot of time for Cate Blanchett, so I thought I would give it a go. I was surprised to find that this is one of the best films that I have seen for a long time. I dont believe in psychic phenomena, but I almost found myself believing after watching this film the entire cast was excellent and the script, written by Billy Bob Thornton (yes, Billy Bob the actor) and Tom Epperson, was powerful and well-written.
Sam Raimi is known for his inventive direction, for example in Spider Man 2 and The Evil Dead. He was born in Michigan in 1959.
Annie Wilson has psychic powers and tops up her social security payments following the death of her husband by reading cards for her neighbours, particularly Buddy Cole, who appears to be losing his grip on reality and Valerie Barksdale, who is frequently beaten by her husband, Donnie. When the wealthy, promiscuous Jessica King goes missing and the police run out of leads, her father, Mr King, and fiancée, Wayne Collins come to Annie for help. Initially, she cant help, but later, she has a dream placing the dead Jessica at the bottom of a pond on Donnie Barksdales land. The body is found where she expected it to be and Donnie Barksdale is arrested.
Annie is dragged into the court case and vilified by many people in the town who believe her to be a witch. Her animosity towards Barksdale, who has threatened her to keep away from his wife, is brought up. Nevertheless, he is found guilty.
Then Annie starts to have more dreams and realises that the wrong man has been imprisoned. But will she be able to persuade the authorities, already suspicious of her powers, to re-open the case? And even if they do, will she be able to find the real killer before he strikes again?
Cate Blanchett is superb as Annie Wilson. Ive always admired her acting and I didnt think she would ever be able to beat her role in Elizabeth, but this performance definitely comes a close second. Her ability to portray abject terror is amazing. This is a very realistic performance in a role that could have been unrealistic in a lesser actress shoes. There is not a trace of an antipodean accent.
Giovanni Ribisi, probably best-known for his role as Phoebes brother in Friends, is also superb as Buddy Cole. In a role that is very different from that in Friends, he plays the decidedly mad Buddy, who is slowly losing his mind for reasons that seem to be connected to abuse from his father as a child. I always liked him in friends, but he surpasses himself here; all the more incredible because he was just 24 at the time the film was made. I sincerely hope he will appear in more films soon, because this was an amazing performance.
Donnie Barksdale, played by Keanu Reeves, is not a character I would have expected Keanu to play. As a wife-beater, he is not a likeable character. However, the hate in his eyes as he threatens Annie is extraordinary. Ive always been in two minds about Keanu Reeves Ive never been too keen on films such as The Matrix, Speed and Devil's Advocate but this is definitely a film that shows off his acting skills.
Hilary Swank plays Donnies wife, Valerie, who her husband beats to within an inch of her life on a regular basis. She begs Annie to help her through her readings, but cannot accept the idea of getting rid of her husband. As Ive been led to expect from Swank after her roles in Boys Dont Cry and Millionaire Dollar Baby, she did a great job as a woman who has had the life beaten out of her by her cheating husband.
Greg Kinnear gave a very realistic performance as Wayne Collins, Jessicas fiancé. There is a definite spark between Wayne and Annie, but his grief at Jessicas death is deeply touching. Kinnear always seems to play secondary characters, such as that in As Good As It Gets; I actually think he deserves a much more meaty role, because he is clearly capable of more.
Finally, there is Katie Holmes, she of Dawsons Creek and Tom Cruise fame, as Jessica King. It wasnt a particularly meaty role she just needed to look good and she did that. Whether there is more to her as an actress, I am just not sure from this film. One things for sure, she must have spent a lot of time in make-up for her role in Annies dream sequences.
Trailer This is the original cinema trailer.
TV spot The cinema trailer adapted for TV. What can I say? I dont rate it as an extra, I think it is totally unnecessary.
Radio spot An audio trailer. Again, totally unnecessary.
Behind the Scenes This was a little more interesting and discussed how the film came about. It lasted for about 10 minutes.
Interviews Interviews with all the characters listed above and the director lasted for about 15 minutes. Again, it looked at how the film came about and how the different actors were chosen for the roles.
The last two special features were interesting, but frankly, if they hadnt been there, I wouldnt have missed them. The trailer and TV and radio spot were pointless. Personally, I never base a buying decision on the extras available, but if I did, I would be put off.
Length of film: 1 hour and 40 minutes
I thought this film was superb. I couldnt take my eyes off the screen all the way through. The script was excellent and the acting the best I have seen for a long time it is rare that in a film with so many characters played by well-known stars all do such a good job in their roles. The cinematography was also very well done. There are several dream sequences in which Annie sees what actually happened, which are frightening and creepy and involve a great deal of make-up on Katie Holmes part. This is where the film could have slipped up, but the detail was amazing and the filming very realistic. Sam Raimi should be proud of himself. Highly recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99.
Sam Raimi's 'The Gift' has taken a fair amount of slagging off which i can understand as it is fairly controversial and if there is no interest in the 'supernatural' then this one is definitely not for you, although having said that, there may be some hope kept alive only by the amazing cast who really act (something many new faces on our screens these days, are unfamiliar with) to their full potential, really bringing the characters alive. I am biased as i am interested in Wicca and Supernatural subjects, and although it was fictional, i found 'The Gift' an intriguing watch. Set in the small town of Brixton, Georgia, 'The Gift' tells a story of a woman with a gift. Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is a beautiful, widowed mother of three, blessed with physic abilities to help others. She is a loving character and she respects her surroundings, helping the people she cares for whenever she can. She understands people and often her friends turn to her to talk to, sharing their troubles which, added to the already difficuly position of an insomniac attempting to raise three children, living on social services after the tragic death of her husband at a work incident the year before, results in the appearance of her frail character. She is very strong willed and is a very loyal character but she is deeply troubled by her friend - Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) and her volatile, abusive husband. She stands by her friend and strongly dislikes Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves who actually makes a suprisingly convincing psycho redneck) but she is sensible and tries to keep herself to herself. Of course this provokes Donnie more and she constantly has trouble from him but she learns to live life with him in it, contenting herself with earning the bare minimum by doing 'readings' for the townsfolk (including Valerie despite a forbidding husband). Annie's gift is to see certain things in her readi
ngs of the cards, sometimes in her dreams she is haunted by more extreme visions which she cannot control. When Jessica King (Katie Holmes - Suprisingly unconvincing) - the rich *coughslutahem* daughter of Kenneth King goes missing, Annie finds herself unwillingly caught up in the incident when her 'gift' forces her to speak up about her gifts, to a lot of cynical listeners. Of course you think about it. Some rich girl goes missing, who you all know's been sleeping with virtually everyone in the town. Then the town 'witch' who's convinced she's got some psyhic power, says she knows where the body is. Oh look it's there! and it's in the land owned by the butch lad giving her trouble. Hmm... yes! So as expected she meets a lot of conflict, not to mention her very troubled young friend - Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi) who is the stereotypical, deeply wounded in his childhood, shaky boy with a slightly 'off' mental state. Ok the characters are overly stereotypical, the story is predictable but again, the beautiful casting really does this movie justice. A movie like this can't expect much credibility, maybe the little for the big names chucked in, but the cast is mainly the only appeal. Blanchett put up a (almost expected) talented and beautiful performance as the burdened Annie, and comes across perfectly - image, character, accent, the whole lot. Ribisi's also looks and fits the part of Buddy and i have to say, this is the best performance from him that i've seen (hmm... comes close to Phoebe's pyromaniac brother but nah i think this takes the top) Swank - so i'm not her biggest fan but she was a good match for her part and didn't let down the rest of the cast. Holmes topless? Come one that's gotta attract at least half the male population. I didn't expect much of her and didn't get much but hey, it's lil joey from dawson's creek! Reeves
- before watching the film, i was trying to work up an image of keanu, 70s surfer from Bill and Ted as a violent 'pyscho redneck' but as i said before - a very convincing, suprisingly good performance from him. So i'm rambled and bambled and haven't really gone anywhere. In a nutshell, Blanchett, Ribisi, Holmes or any of the major cast, fans, maybe people interested in the alternative side of the supernatural and wicca may find this an interesting watch. If you aren't interested in any of the above and are just looking for an entertaining laugh, try Armagedon - place your bids on whether King Jaw/Affleck will get squashed by the big rock (or the lil one).
This film utterly infuriates me. Sam Raimi is one of my favourite directors, whose career I have followed and whose films I have avidly watched. From the giddy heights of the classic 'Evil Dead' films, through his gradual introduction to the Hollywood studio system, one would expect a maturing of style, and a slight commercialisation of technique. These are not necessarily bad things, and many directors have successfully made the transition from cult/indie to the mainstream. Following his deeply average forees into the sport and western genres, I was delighted to learn that Raimi was returning to his horror roots, this time with a far higher budget and a high calibre cast of Hollywood stars. The result of this was 'The Gift', a film so weighed down by its own averageness that it sinks turgidly into the overly familiar, stinking swamps, which its characters seem to enjoy hanging around. The word, which many critics used to describe ‘The Gift’, was 'solid'. Respectable acting, reasonable script, a few effective moments, and so on. Average. The kind of film that will draw in medium box office returns, and will be largely ignored by the critics. Another page in the cast and director's CV. For me, this is film making at its most loathsome. Pointless, safe, unambitious, a film off the Hollywood production line which makes no attempt to really entertain or thrill the audience, but simply to dull the brain for two hours or so. Coming from a director like Raimi, this is not a mere disappointment: this is an insult. I am not arguing that all films need push the envelope, and I am well aware that originality is a rare commodity in the movie industry today. However, there simply is no excuse for the complete lack of effort on display here. The plot of 'The Gift', from a script co-written by everybody's favourite redneck, Billy Bob Thornton, concerns the involvement of a psychic
in the disappearance of a young, promiscuous woman from a small town in the Deep South of America. The psychic in question is Annie, played by Cate Blanchett, a woman whose life has been plagued by tragedy, and whose 'gift' does not always make her popular with the locals. She lives alone with her children, offering help to various people, such as by advising beaten wife Valerie (Hillary Swank) how to deal with her abusive husband Donnie (Keanu Reeves). She is drawn into the investigation of the disappearance of Jessica (Katie Holmes) through one of her clients, facing cynicism and mistrust from many within the police department. As her visions draw her nearer and nearer to the killer, it becomes clear to Annie that the price for discovering the truth may be her own life.... I'm sure that even to irregular watchers of film and television, this plot seems familiar and tired. As the story unfolds, I can almost guarantee that most viewers will have guessed the perpetrator long before the halfway mark of the film. Sadly, Raimi does little to alleviate the air of predictability, instead throwing in a few cheap scares to keep us from falling asleep. In fact, aside a handful of directorial flourishes during the psychic vision sequences, 'The Gift' could have come from any number of faceless Hollywood autotrons. It is a sad day when a director who has previously shown such dynamism churns out a work of under whelming blandness. Perhaps what is worst about this film is that, even without the weight of expectation due to the director’s previous works, ‘The Gift’ would be considered poor. There are very few thrills to be had here. Even non-genre fans will find little to frighten them, and I seriously doubt that anyone would feel their heart miss a beat at any point during this limp affair. The film is obviously going for the standard 'slow burning', creepy atmosphere: in other words, throw in a few canisters of
dry ice and some would-be ominous symbolism. In the fashion of films like this, a few Jerry Springer style soap opera shenanigans are thrown in a lazy attempt to generate empathy in the audience. 'The Gift' is a perfect example of this tired device of modern cinema: tricking the audience into caring for a character, simply by throwing something tragic into their life. Hillary Swank's Vallerie is an excellent case in point: woefully underwritten, utterly two-dimensional, the viewer is expected to sympathise with her through repeated and aggressive re-emphasis that she has an unpleasant life. To be fair, the acting in the film is generally quite good, and all concerned make what they can from the uninspired material. Katie Holmes and Keanu Reeves impress the most, playing against type as a slut and a wife beater respectively. So there you have it. 'The Gift' is a film, which any film fan should make a point of not watching. It is dull, unimaginative stuff that is horribly indicative of the state of the Hollywood studio system today. This film is a number, a statistic, whose only purpose is to act as a safe bet, which will go largely unnoticed whilst helping to level out the studio's average box office gross. Films like this are evil, made without any concern for entertaining or thrilling the paying audience. Raimi has a lot to answer for.
I was drawn to this film. I was looking around my local blockbuster when I saw row upon row of copies of this video. My eyes were drawn to the cover, but I thought nothing more of it. Then a trailer came onto the overhead TV screen advertising this movie as a supernatural thriller type film starring several well-known faces including Keanu Reeves (Speed, Devils Advocate, Matrix etc.) and Katie Holmes (Dawsons Creek). I actually wanted to buy it on video just as soon as it was advertised at less than full price, but I’m really glad I didn’t! Written jointly by Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson and directed by Sam Raimi (who? – I’m not into gory horror films such as the Evil Dead series that he apparently directed, I thought that the plot was promising. The main character is Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett – who starred in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’) who performs psychic readings for her friends and neighbours. They, in return, make donations, which helps Annie to provide for her three sons. During the course of the film we find out that Annie is a widow and that prior to her husbands death she warned him about what was going to happen but he would not listen. It’s through these psychic reading meetings that we meet some of the other characters in the film. Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank) is married to Donnie (Keanu Reeves) and is regularly abused by him. Annie continually advises Valerie to leave her husband, but she never finds the strength and the will to go through with it. When Donnie finds out what Annie has been saying to his wife, he threatens her and her family. Another of Annie's clients is Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi – Pheobe’s brother in Friends), a mentally disturbed mechanic, who relies on Annie for friendship and to assist him in analysing his disturbing thoughts and feelings. Later we meet the school principal, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) and his fiancée J
essica King (Katie Holmes). When asked by Jessica "D'ya think we'll live happily ever after?", she has visions of her impending death, although she doesn’t disclose this to her. As expected, Jessica disappears after a night out, and the hunt is on for the murderer. However, with no body or clues, they soon hit a dead end so Wayne and Jessica’s father (Kenneth King played by Chelcie Ross), along with a local policeman visit Annie so that they might be able to find out what happened to Jessica. The policeman is a total sceptic but Jessica’s father and Wayne are very patient and supportive. By getting her involved in the case, Anne soon starts to have visions providing clues to the location of the body, means of death but also visions of herself being attacked. Now this is where I began to have a problem with the film. I enjoyed the story, the character interactions and found the pace to be reasonable. Then, as soon as we find out the identity of the killer, the film is over! The sceptical policeman comes out with ‘I’ve known him all my life, just goes to show you never really know a person’ without even finding out from Annie HOW she managed to get him to confess, and later how she got him in the boot of the car. His character completely changes and he doesn’t question what he has been told by either party. The murderer confesses, another big let down, and half of the characters are in limbo. We don’t know the fate of Donnie, who is implicated in the murder by Annie and is languishing in jail when we last see him, but presumably would be set free after Annie has gone to great lengths to expose the injustice. Would this change the way he viewed her, would he still seek revenge or mend his ways? We don’t know the fate of his wife who has had time away from her husband during his incarceration and has learnt of his relationship with Jessica. Then there is the law
yer (Gary Cole) who has also had relations with the dead girl and was involved in the trial and a few other subsequent scenes, but then is seen no more. Then there is Jessica’s father who simply disappears from the story almost as abruptly as he arrived. Finally there is Annie’s best friend, who along with many of the other characters identified here doesn’t seem to have any real purpose during the film and yet time is spent developing their characters before they just ‘drop out’ of usefulness and the film. I was left EXTREMELY disappointed and cheated. The majority of the 110 minutes this film lasts is spent developing characters and relationships and trying to solve the murder. Then, the murder is solved and suddenly the film ends leaving the viewer with many questions including ‘what was the significance of the grandmother scene?!!!’ Words cannot express how deflated it left me. It was almost like there was a word limit on the script that had been reached, or that they had run out of money and had to stop filming. Alternatively I liken it to a school project where you have a word limit and a certain number of characters you have to use, which would explain why we bothered getting to know any of them. I wouldn’t recommend the film, nor would I recommend the website (http://www.thegiftmovie.com), which I feel reflects the film in that it looks very pretty but when it comes down to it, it lacks substance and it can take you a long time to get anywhere.
Take a director who is respected in his genre, an actress who has won recent acclaim for such movies as ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ and the future ‘Lord of the Rings’ releases, mix in some scares and thrills, a supernatural plot and a few twists and what have you got? The recipe for a sure-fire hit? You’d think so wouldn’t you? But sadly Sam Raimi (famed for the Evil Dead movies) only manages to deliver a movie that could be described as being ‘average’ at best. Cate Blanchett takes the lead role of Annie Wilson, a single mother of three who relies on her ‘gift’ to put food on the family table. Ever since an early age Annie has been a psychic, visions just seem to come to her – some good, some not so good. When a friend Valerie (Hilary Swank – The Audition, Boys don’t cry) goes missing the finger is immediately pointed at her violent husband Keanu Reeves. Through her visions Annie is increasingly becoming more and more convinced that something other than the obvious happened here. Annie is called in by the local police to try and figure out where the missing Valerie has gone to, initially ridiculed but eventually relied on, Annie tries to piece together these visions to find the whereabouts of her missing friend. Using the typical ‘turn round and bump into person who you didn’t know was there’ tricks we get the thrills you would expect from this movie, but somehow it just doesn’t seem to work – I can’t even blame Keanu Reeves for it this time – he’s only on screen for a small time, and even then you sense he’s trying to restrain himself from saying ‘whoa, dude!’ (but in a deep south accent). I can’t exactly put my finger on why this movie failed to work for me – this is normally the type of movie I would go for, but there just seems to be a spate of movies similar to
this being released on the back of such successes as ‘Sixth Sense’ – the rather poor ‘What Lies beneath’ would be another example of a movie that has all the essential ingredients but just doesn’t work. The sets are great, the ‘vision’ sequences work as well as any other, certainly better than those seen in ‘In Dreams’ and Blanchett is OK too. When we find out who the killer is though it still just seems to have ran out of steam. Perhaps this movie is a victim of its own hype – there certainly was enough of it and sadly the trailer shows the best sections of the movie, a real disappointment for me and one to give a miss!
The Gift http://www.thegiftmovie.com THE FILM From Director Sam Raimi and written jointly by Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson comes the latest Supernatural thriller known as 'The Gift'. Starring Cate Blanchett (Mr. Ripley etc.) as Anne Wilson, a woman struggling to make ends meat after the death of her husband. Growing up she knew she has a gift of some kind, and through the help of her grandmother managed to channel her psychic ability, which now in her later life supports her and there three sons. Anne gives readings for her friends and neighbours who make donations for the service offered. While it does not make her a fortune, it is certainly popular and she is well known in her locality for the activity, although not all the attention she gets is good! When the wealthy and incredibly sexy Jessica King (played by the lovely Katie Holmes of Dawson's Creek etc.) goes missing after a night out, the local police force exhaust all avenues of enquiry in an attempt to find her. However, with no body or clues, they soon hit a dead end, and this is where fiancée and local school headmaster Greg Kinnear turn to Anne for help. By getting her involved in the case, Anne soon starts to have visions and premonitions of the case and slowly starts to upturn a few clues, but at the same time also has visions of her being attacked. The film then develops into a supernatural race against time to bring the killer to justice before Anne is the next victim. While 'the gift' is not even close to being a classic, it was enjoyable. The creation of tension and suspense was for me evident (e.g. when the toy truck fell off the table I nearly jumped out of my seat - see the film and u will know what I mean!) and important to the film. The acting is also high quality in parts, and the roles are played very well by the cast. Big names such as Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu reeves, Hilary Swank and a few others have diff
ering roles to play, and again all contribute to a decent casting performance. However, where the film falls down is the plot. Based on a decent foundation, there are so many holes it gets humorous at times. The ending is very bizarre and stinks of lack of imagination. I get the impression it was meant to be a surprise ending, but I can assure you that you will predict the 'killer' about half way through at the latest - Originality is certainly not the strong point of this film. If this was how the creative minds behind this film intended it to end, then I am surprised, because it seems to thrown together its beyond belief! Add to that the fact the film is primarily a murder mystery type whodunit movie, and when you consider the fact its more than 40 minutes before the murder is even committed, and you can see why many people (myself included) fund the start to drag a little. Running for 110 minutes, if that would have stripped 10 minutes off the start, it would have improved the film no end. Overall, this is a better than average movie that is let down badly by a few areas of the film. In most respects they got it spot on, but the neglect in some departments really spoiled it for me. THE DVD Out now on region 2 DVD, this disk is again a bit up and down. Visually, its faultless with nothing to complain about. Presented in (I think) its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio the film is Anamorphic and looks beautiful for it. Crystal clear with a very sharp print, the film suffered from no visible artifacting or any problem that would hinder it visually. Likewise, the audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and managed to produce a decent enough soundtrack that relays the tension and suspense of the film very well. Heavily biased toward the front three speakers, especially the dialogue speaker, the audio consists of mainly split effects with the rears limited mainly to small (but useful) ambient noises such as wildlife and
wind effects. Extras wise is were the disk is really let down, and by glancing at the rear of the case you'd be misled with what is on offer. The case describes a behind the scene featurette lasting 10 minutes, when in fact it lasted only 7 minutes. Add to this the fact that 90% of it is promotional material such as clips from the film, bits of the trailer and small interviews etc you can se why this is little use to the disk. Following on from that we are told we get 15 minutes of cast and crew interviews. Again, as far as I can recall, this lasted between 10-11 minutes and consisted solely of everyone praising everyone else saying (as with ever cast and crew we find) how wonderful all their co-workers are to work with....yeah right! TV Spots and trailers are also present lasting a few seconds each and something you wont ever watch more than the once. Radio spots are simply audio only versions of the aforementioned TV spots and again are useless. What is included on the disk are nice animated menus with audio that do look impressive. However, this is not enough to save the disk and you feel let down with everything in the extras front. Subtitles in English only (in addition to English for the hearing impaired) complete the DVD. OVERALL On reflection, this is a decent enough movie with little in the way of repeat viewing potential. I can see many people liking it and equal amounts loathing it, while I sit firmly in between. I found it enjoyable at times (although many times I found myself thinking this part is quite un-necessary) and tense/involving at others, but rarely found boredom creeping in. While I would not say this is a scary film, I must admit I jumped on the odd occasion (including right at the start!) and I was grippe to the screen. However, I can't see me wanting to keep this DVD and watching the film again. The fact I managed to get through all thee extras within 20 minutes of w
atching the film does something to tell you of their magnitude and where the disk is let down. That said, the transfer of the film is faultless and this is what should really matter about the DVD, so it scores highly in that department. If I had to recommend this film, it would be to fans of the cast members or murder mystery buffs, but would have to say give it a try regardless... SCORE: Film: 3/5 Transfer: 5/5 Extras: 1/5 Overall: 3/5
If you have seen Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series of movies then you might be expecting something a little different than what The Gift has to offer you. This shows a more mature Raimi, showing that he can indeed cut it in the world of 'serious' film-making, as opposed to hilarious schlock horror. The Gift however benefits from his directorial talents but unfortunately even he can not pull it up from being a simple painting by numbers thriller. The wonderful Cate Blanchett plays Annie, a psychic in a small southern town. Her husband died a few years previously and the only money she has to survive on is the small amount she gets from his life insurance and the money she gets from offering psychic readings to the townsfolk. Amongst her clientel is Valerie Barksdale(Hilary swank), wife of abusive husband Donnie(Keanu Reeves) who frequently comes to Annie for reading, and Annie frequently tells her to leave him because she has abad feelin about him. Annie son is misbehavin gin school so she has to go to see the headmaster wayne Collins(Greg Kinnear). Whilst there she meets his fiancee Jessica King(Katie Holmes) who asks the fatefull question "Dy'all think we'll live happily ever ahfter?", Annie having a psychic flash that indeed they won't. In fact Jessica will not lie happily for very much long after at all, turning up murdered a few days later. Annie has visions implicating Donnie in the murder and she becomes the star witness in a sensational trial. The Gift is great stuff, it has to be said, but is far too derivative and slow paced to be ever called a great movie. Director Sam Raimi is to be applauded at least for the first half of the movie showing that he is not afraid to use a slow build up to weave a compelling story at the risk of losing his audience. He doesn't - at least not here. The first section of the movie is superb, with a gripping plot and great performances all round, it just falls apart in the seco
nd where it simply becomes devoid of any new ideas and a typical genre movie. Someone is prowling around outside so Annie investigates and then comes back forgetting to lock the door of course, it twists and turns but down well trodden paths so that nothing really comes as a surprise and it focuses on a 'who-dunnit?' question which we all knew the answer to long ago. That drags the movie down, big time. What rescues it though is both Raimi's awesome directing, creating a really dark brooding atmosphere, the characterisation which allows ALL cast members to have life breathed into them rather than just the main few and the rest being cardboard characatures from the Hollywood book of movie making, and Cate Blanchett's once again superb performance in the lead role of Annie. Blanchett it appears can play any role and do it to perfection, whether it be a psychic in the Deep South or the Queen of England during colonial days. She is an awesome talent but she is not alone in delivering a superb performance. Keanu Reeves is also rather good here as a man with a thinly veiled rage boiling just below his not particularly calm surface. He eminates evil here and once again surprises me with a performance I didn't think he was capable of. Like I said, its not a great movie, but it is a good movie and one which I think is well worth watching, and probably one which most people have let pass them by because it didn't receive that much hype or publicity. Its another step into the mainstream for Sam Raimi who will next year show us his live action version of the Spiderman comics which ought to make the transition complete(despite rumours of it being cr*p) and its another feather in the cap for both Blanchett and Reeves who were both awesome here(but unlikely to be recognised as such). Recommended for all those who like a tense thriller, but who are willing to accept that there isn't much 'new' on display here.
A widowed single mother (Cate Blanchett) makes ends meet by telling people's fortunes and seeing into their pasts and futures. When a local townsgirl (Katie Holmes) goes missing, her gift of clairvoyance allows her to see into the clues which will ultimately determine the facts behind the mysterious disappearance. I enjoyed this movie from start to finish as a spooky supernatural murder mystery but found myself pleased more with the collection of great acting performances rather than the movie's story and eventual unraveling. Cate Blanchett checks in with her usual solid acting chops, no real complaints here as she does a fine job holding the movie together as the lead actress. Giovanni Ribisi, playing a halfwit mental patient, scared the living beejesus out of me, a frighteningly believable showing. Hell, even Keanu Reeves decides to get into the mix and show off his inner thespian…he's quite convincing as the psychotic wife beater. In supporting roles, Katie Holmes was superb and Greg Kinnear was well, Greg Kinnear. The movie's premise was interesting but never really gripped or held my attention more than I had hoped. The story basically sets everyone up as a suspect and then spends 2 hours bouncing around small clues which purposely manipulate the viewers into pointing fingers at various suspects. While it was marketed as a thriller, this film is actually more geared towards the dramatic so don't go in expecting too many surprises or screams.
’A Southern widow’s psychic abilities put her in the middle of a murder investigation.’ In ’The Gift’, Cate Blanchett stars as Annie Wilson, a Southern widow who gives psychic readings to help pay the bills and feed her three young boys. When Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), tries to get strength and support from Annie to leave her abusive, redneck husband Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves), he grows more and more hate for Annie. He Believes so much that Annie’s psychic readings are the devil’s work, that she’s into witch craft, and goes so far as to threatening Annie’s children. As if that’s not enough for Annie, her eldest son is getting into fights at school. Principal Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear), thinks that unresolved feelings about his father’s death are behind the child’s problems. As Annie and Wayne are discussing about her son, thay are interrupted by Wayne’s fiancee, Jessica King (Katie Holmes). Annie begins to have disturbing visions of Jessica that takes great importance when Jessica suddenly disappears. Annie’s visions are the only things that are leading and helping the investigation. ’The Gift’ is a very intelligent and haunting film with some amazing storytelling. Throughout the movie, you are entertained by some interesting characters and their lives. There isn’t really any slow moments like some movies of this kind have. It’s haunting and chilling. Probably the creepiest film I’ve seen in a while. All of the actors are very believable and do great jobs telling the story. The whole cast gives excellent performances. Cate Blanchett does an amazing job as the psychic reader. Keanu Reeves gives a knockout and chilling performance, possibly the best performance of his career. Giovanni Ribisi brings his character, Buddy, to life with his wonderful acting and talent. He’s definitely going to be a mo
re appreciated and much more known actor in the near future. Hilary Swank does a fantastic job playing an abused wife. The rest of the cast, along with Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, give wonderful and smart performances that help the film work. ’The Gift’ was very entertaining and scary. The story was very well told by and awesome all star cast. There were some scenes that made me jump and scenes that shocked and surprised me as well. It would have been nice if the film got a few Oscar nomination’s, especially for Blanchett, Reeves, and Ribisi. But I guess some people didn’t see it like that. ’The Gift’ is a great film that shouldn’t be missed and is sure to be one of the years best, on my list anyway.
The gift is a cross between a horror movie and a murder mystery. Cate Blanchett has "the gift" and is able the sense things that have happened somewhere else. She is a local psychic who's clients include a woman who is severely beaten by her husband (Keanu Reeves). When a young girl (Katie Holmes) disappears it is up to Blanchett to find the killer and find the body. Revelation after revelation occurs as the puzzle is pieced together: Holmes is not the sweet young girl we were lead to believe, and the resident mentally handicapped man knows more than you think. A twist at every corner, this film is supurbly written and casted and is a great change from the bog-standard horror flicks.
Although this isnt a particularly recent film (in fact I went to see it several months ago already) it is still very recommendable. I went to see it with my girlfriend at the time and we both rather enjoyed it. There were a couple of funny moments, and some romantic ones, just the right amount for this kind of film. The scary sequences were genuine and not at all cheesy. The film reminded me a little of sixth sense because both have a really excellent plot twist at the end. The film was a little predictable though because I managed to predict who the real killer was about half way through the film and my girlfriend worked out who the rescuer was a while before a rescue was required. Although the film is a little slow all the way through, it does add to the atmosphere and the sudden horrifying visions the main character has impact well against the slow speed of the film. The ending is definately the best part of the film, and makes you think (how was that possible). I would recommend seeing it if you havent already.
No one was better suited than Sam Raimi to fulfil co-writer Billy Bob Thornton's vision of The Gift. This supernatural whodunnit is set in the wooded and swampy Southern US town of Brixton, Georgia, which is altogether familiar territory for the director of the Evil Dead movies and producer of the TV series American Gothic. Raimi skilfully builds a sense of tension and unease, using his camera initially with pleasing restraint before letting rip with skewed angles and unpredictable editing effects in a series of disturbing dreams. These belong to local "Fortune Teller" Annie (a mesmerising Cate Blanchett), who "witnesses" the murder of a local good-time girl in her nightmares. As clues and red herrings pile up, it should become obvious that this is a tale more about people and place than plotting and the paranormal. After A Simple Plan it's clear that Raimi has become a mature film-maker as capable of handling psychological horror as he is at providing shocks. The top-notch ensemble cast give wholly believable performances, making the small-town setting and spooky events come alive superbly. Giovanni Ribisi and Keanu Reeves are ticking timebombs of problems, while Hilary Swank and Greg Kinnear are pathetic yet sympathetic bystanders. This is a movie of startling visions both in front of the camera and behind. On the DVD: The deliberately diluted colour looks great in the 1:85:1 widescreen ratio. Swamp oaks loom tall and shadowy while streaks of sunlight pick out the brighter end of the spectrum. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track does justice to the dream sequence sound effects and Christopher Young's score dominated by scratch violin. The typical body of extras are included: a trailer, over-the-top TV and radio spots, but surprisingly no biographies for such a stellar cast. The "Making of" featurette is the usual clip-dominated TV promo and is seven minutes, not the advertised 10. Far better is a selection of interviews with Blanchett, Raimi (in constant suit and tie), Kinnear, Ribisi, Swank and Reeves. This is much more revealing about the production, but is also closer to 11 minutes than the stated 15. --Paul Tonks