The Gift


Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by:Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Gary Cole, Michael Jeter
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: B

Police have been left no clues regarding the disappearance of Jessica King (Holmes), daughter of wealthy business man Kenneth King, who has now been missing for four days.  Her husband-to-be is local school principal Wayne Collins (Kinnear).  In desperation he has turned to the help of a psychic looking for any sniff of information to help track her whereabouts.

Annie Wilson (Blanchett) is such a person.  Her husband died over a year ago and she’s been left struggling to raise her three sons since.  Social security isn’t sufficient for her family to survive on and so she tells peoples fortunes using special cards to provide additional income.  Annie has little standing in the community with most believing her to be a hoax.

So when Annie unearths Jessica’s body in the lake of local womaniser Donnie Barksdale (Reeves) accusations start flying.  How did Annie know the body was there?  Did she have it in for Donnie as she knew he was beating his wife Valerie (Swank)?  How can you convict someone of the crime if the only witness wasn’t even there?

Everyone’s a suspect and the screenplay is designed to give you that impression.  All have a motive and it’s why the film is unsatisfying.  Once the killer was revealed, I felt cheated and disenchanted.  It’s a shame since The Gift was thrilling to watch in the lead up.

A captivatingly dark film, director Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan, The Quick And The Dead) isn’t helped by his cast.  Cate Blanchett stands out and proves she is the world’s best actress at the moment.  Having been robbed by Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars two years ago for her performance in Elizabeth, Blanchett has showed her range in Pushing Tin, The Talented Mr. Ripley and An Ideal Husband.  However, the remaining cast members are typecast play uncreative standardised roles.  Keanu Reeves is the bad guy, Greg Kinnear is the good guy and Giovanni Ribisi is the strange guy.

Katie Holmes shows intelligence for not succumbing to the fate of other young TV stars and starring in teen romantic comedies.  She will probably be remember most for bearing her breasts in this film but given her performance both here and in last year’s Wonder Boys add to the impressive resume of a 22-year-old.  Let’s just forget Teaching Mrs. Tingle ever happened.

Credit for the spine tingling score goes to Christopher Young (Rounders, Copycat) for it.  Few understand that to add to the suspense of a good thriller, you need to have the music peak and trough at just the right times.  Psycho or Jaws are famous examples.  Ever so subtly, Young increases the tension already generated by Raimi which makes it’s hard to look away.

The Gift is a spooky mix of reality and the supernatural.  The possibility existed for a uniquely spellbinding view but does degenerate by following Hollywood conventions and formulas.  It could have been and should have been much better.