You Deserve a Gift if You Can Sit Through 'The Gift'

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You Deserve a Gift if You Can Sit Through 'The Gift'

Despite a bad script from Billy Bob Thornton, director Sam Raimi at least managed to secure for "The Gift" an extremely talented cast for a rather slow and predictable movie.

The story focuses on the quiet life of Annie, a recently widowed mother of three. To supplement her Social Security checks, she pays the bills by doing card readings and is believed by locals to have the gift - enabling her to see into the future or past via dream-like visions. Because her clients see her as more of a psychologist than a card reader, they end up bringing Annie into their own problems.

One of her clients is a mentally unstable mechanic (Giovanni Ribisi), who tends to scare Annie almost as much as he tries to help her.

When she tells another battered client to leave her abusive husband, the enraged pickup driver (Keanu Reeves) comes to Annie's house and threatens her in front of her own children.

Women getting beaten up or held at the mercy of their male counterparts is pretty much the dominant theme in this movie.

Annie copes with the loss of her husband by ignoring the issue, which only embitters her son as he sinks into deeper problems at school. The concerned principal (Greg Kinnear) tries to provide parental guidance to Annie, but later when his promiscuous fiance (Katie Holmes) is reported missing, he too seeks her help.

All of these males are suspects (including one lawyer who has an affair with the missing fiance), but it won't be difficult for you to spot who the killer is. The movie basically gives this away; call it a "gift" of "The Gift," if you will. In addition, the movie is too conventional. The standard ghost in the bathroom, man hiding in the rain, and dead body being pulled out of the bayou scenes are all present here.

Though unoriginal, surprisingly there is so much good acting that the movie is actually worth seeing.

Moments that define good acting occur when an actor or actress is so real that viewers want to believe in the reality of the performer, a reality that does not exist but is created by the artist. To do this, the performer must not only convince themselves of the reality of the script, but also those they share the scene with. When this happens, the result is known in acting theory as "reacting," or moments when one stellar performance encourages the counterpart to play in tune and act with the same level of caliber.

Cate Blanchett has many scenes alone in this movie where she has only herself to rely on for a convincing performance. But in the scenes where she stars opposite Ribisi, their "reacting" to each other shows a full range of talents. Blanchett's mother-like qualities, that were hidden in her previous role as Queen Elizabeth, surface while Ribisi brilliantly plays the repulsive, yet endearing victim.

From the outset of the movie you know that the story takes place somewhere in the American South - Brixton, Georgia, to be exact. And the images of fog rising off the bayou are a slice of Americana, hinting at the infatuation Americans have for the legacy of the Old South. But in the surprise of surprises Keanu Reeves breaks out of the hero mold and continues down the path he began with "The Watcher" by playing a gritty redneck with the beard and working boots to match. Hillary Swank is his abused wife, but unfortunately she has the smallest part of this movie despite being a first-rate actress.

Although there was basically no element of suspense, and you can see where the denouement and climax are heading about halfway through the movie, the cast really brought this otherwise dull film up to speed.

Particularly, the small-town aspect of the set contributed to their on-screen connections and realistic interaction. Of the three couples, the characters played by Kinnear and Holmes had the least amount of presence, but to their credit they provided the best scares.

by Joseph Kim

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