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GIFT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is a young widowed mother of three with unusual psychic powers, which she uses to try and help her troubled neighbours in a small Georgian town. One of her regulars car mechanic Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), a disturbed young man tettering on the verge of a breakdown. Another is Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), the unfortunate wife of Donnie (Keanu Reeves) a wife beater who thinks Annie is a bad influence on his wife Ė and a witch. At a local dance, she chats to the teacher at her eldest sonís school, Wayne (Greg Kinnear) and his bride to be, Jessica (Katie Holmes), who she spies having an affair with another man. When Jessica is murdered, local police are baffled and clueless, and (skeptically) call on Annie to help. Her gift plays a crucial role in what turns out to be a complicated mystery.

"Cate Blanchett is wonderful, okay? She bleeds, she cries, she emotes all over the screen and makes us believe. Greg Kinnear is reliably solid and Hilary Swank is swell. Giovanni Ribisi is predictably intense Ė and I wish he hadnít taken this role. After his great, adult work in Gone in 60 Seconds, I had hoped heíd move on from nutty young characters, so Iím disappointed. Keanu Reeves is excellent in such nasty roles (like The Watcher) and Katie Holmes has it all. So whatís the bad news? Well, itís the most intangible of things, a chemistry or a mood; thereís just not enough emotional connection, despite huge amounts of emotion-generating circumstance and the charismatic Cate. Maybe itís all too overworked and overstated. Perhaps itís the fact that a thriller with supernatural elements is devilish hard to pull off perfectly. Nuances and subtleties challenge the filmmakers every second, and credibility has to be perfectly maintained. (Thatís why even the smallest flaws in continuity can damage the filmís credence factor.) In posing the thriller question (whodunit), Sam Raimi worked well to feed us red herrings and confuse the detective work. This is the filmís biggest success, weaving a tale with folds on folds that obfuscate the truth. In this respect, the filmís cinematography works well, while the music is a little too strident. Still, it plays well and audiences not too fussed about my concerns will enjoy the package of vulnerable widow in a deadly environment. The biggest problem, though, is the ending, which requires a huge leap from the audience, and as it comes after the denoument of the killer, seems an unnecessary and destabilising element. Better see for yourself."
Andrew L. Urban

"Crystal clear reflections in a lake. The trees are still and there is an air of expectancy. The leaves rustle in the breeze, whispering their secrets, which only those with a gift can hear. Sam Raimi has skillfully created an intense and penetrating mood that stimulates our curiosity. Moody and often chilling, The Gift is a visually striking, intriguing thriller with supernatural elements and a superlative star turn from Cate Blanchett. In fact it's a hand picked cast, and Giovanni Ribisi, Hilary Swank, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes and Keanu Reeves are all superb. Yet after having partaken in the film's journey embracing each character, I felt somewhat manipulated. Perhaps the characters are overstated and their emotional curves evolve conveniently rather than naturally. A couple of continuity flaws break the magic and the script stumbles at times. But the unanticipated conclusion thrills and is well executed, even though it does require a pretty major commitment of faith. Reservations aside, The Gift is a haunting journey and worth seeing for the performances alone. Blanchett is a forceful yet calm presence, artfully engulfing her persona into that of Annie Wilson, the catalyst and emotional heart of the story. Surrounded by the emotionally needy, Annie's positive strength keeps the town's pulse beating, while her humanity leaves her exposed and vulnerable. It's a perfect fit for Blanchett, whose charisma appears limitless. The strength of the film lies is the edginess of the characters Ė as each comes into focus, we are drawn into his or her world and a big question mark is raised. Nothing is predictable. And we enjoy the myriads of shades of grey in each character. The Gift may not be as complete a work as Raimi's A Simple Plan, but impacts nonetheless."
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

See Andrew L. Urban's satellite video interview with
CATE BLANCHETT

TRAILER

GIFT, THE (MA)
(US)

CAST: Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Giovanni Ribisi, Hilary Swank

PRODUCERS: James Jacks, Tom Rosenberg, Robert G. Tapert

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi

SCRIPT: Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jamie Anderson

EDITOR: Arthur Coburn, Bob Murawski

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Neil Spisak

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 12, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: October 3, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

Left:
Note to continuity person (credit not found):
In the emotional scene between Annie and Jessica, when Annie stops the reading and covers the cards on the table with her hands, we see a close up of her hands. On her left wrist is her wristwatch. In the previous shot, the watch had been removed and was lying on the right hand side of the table Ė a minor but repeated piece of business that had been established in previous scenes of Annie reading the cards. And then, in the next scene, the watch is on her right arm. Donít you hate it when that happens?







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