SNMR 8.23: "The Gift"
GREEN'S "MESSING WITH THE DEVIL IS GONNA GET YOU BURNED" REVIEW:
In a small southern town, Annie Wilson, a widow (Cate Blanchett) struggles to raise her three small sons, using her psychic abilities and a poor man's deck of tarot cards to help her friends and people who come to her. Some of those clients are everyday townsfolk, like Buddy (Giovanni Ribisi) the mechanic and Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), the abused wife of Donnie (Keanu Reeves), the town bully. When a young socialite woman (Katie Holmes), the fiancee of the school principal (Greg Kinnear), turns up missing, the police chief (JK Simmons) reluctantly asks Annie for help. But how much does she see and know?
I bought this DVD a while ago because of the merits of the starring cast, not really knowing what to expect or what the movie was about, except that films Cate Blanchett are in are usually pretty darn good. Surprisingly, I liked this film better than I thought I would.
Simply, Cate Blanchett is amazing, with her southern accent and the way she looks so...plain and ordinary. She is clearly one of the top five actresses Hollywood has seen in the last fifty years. The supporting cast is also excellent. Keanu Reeves who I usually recall playing likable characters in his films is surprisingly good being bad. Giovanni Ribisi continues to prove versatile in the roles he plays and he does do a good job playing one who is a little loose upstairs. Greg Kinnear has never been one of my favorite actors but always seems to turn in a solid performance. I'm not sold as much on Katie Holmes and think you could have cast a number of other actresses in her part and wouldn't have missed a beat. And you can't even blame her casting on the fame of being Mrs. Tom Cruise because this film was five years in the can before that happened.
I was surprised to find out that Billy Bob Thornton was co-writer (along with Tom Epperson) of the screenplay. His writing skills, in my opinion, are questionable at best. That being said, the screenplay is decently workable. There was only one scene near the end that was missing that I thought would have closed the film nicely. If you've seen this movie you might understand what I'm thinking of but I'm not going to say in case you haven't watched this movie.
This is the project that director Sam Raimi worked on before turning his attention to the excellently done Peter Parker trilogy known as the Spiderman franchise. So you could legitimately say that Raimi, despite several credits on his resume, was still a relatively unheralded director at this time. What he was able to do here is take a decent script and guide it along to a better than average end result.
The main DVD extra is a short interview session with the actors and director which was good but could have been longer.
I don't put any stock into the whole psychic, tarot card reading thing, so it is a credit to this film that someone like me would enjoy it as much as I did.
***½ out of *****
The Gift (2000, R, 111 minutes), starring Cate Blanchett, Giovani Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Greg Kinnear and JK Simmons. Written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson. Directed by Sam Raimi.