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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.68%
Worth A Look43.86%
Average: 21.93%
Pretty Bad: 9.65%
Total Crap: 0.88%

9 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Gift, The (2001)
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by Paulapalooza

"It could be William Faulkner meets Sylvia Browne, but it's Thornton & Raimi"
4 stars

THE GIFT is a tale of murder, seduction, mental illness, familial dysfunction, redneck machismo, and psychic phenomena, or, as I might title the movie, A TYPICAL TUESDAY IN THE SOUTH. And it IS The South---lived-in, eccentric, veiled, insular, languid (in a good way), humid, mysterious, honest, and more than a little bit stylized (by that Michigan Yankee, Sam Raimi).

The gift of the title is the shine possessed by Cate Blanchett's Annie Wilson, who performs readings for the townies to support herself and her children after her husband's death. One of these women, Valerie Barksdale (Hilary Swank), has an angry, abusive, two-dimensional husband, Donnie, who bears a remarkable resemblance to an unshaven Keanu Reeves and who dislikes Annie's consorting with demonic forces. Another client, the unstable yet protective Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi), fosters emotional trauma over an abusive childhood and frets Annie constantly. Her oldest son is also acting up at school, though the principal, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) provides a dose of welcome sympathy in her life. Unfortunately, Wayne is betrothed to the privileged town slut Jessica King (Katie Holmes), though that isn't a problem for long as she ends up missing, and Annie's visions help locate the body. The prime suspect? Conveniently it's Keanu/Donnie! Cue the trial and the fractured community!

Despite my belief that Keanu Reeves should not be placed in any role wherein his character's backstory could not have conceivably had him reared in SoCal, THE GIFT is a solid, suspenseful and exciting bit of filmmaking. This is not to say you won't see plot twists like you'd see horizon in Big Sky Country, because there's little original material here. But what you do have is a solid, well-acted story filled to the brim with eccentic characters and distinctive atmosphere. Sometimes that's enough. Raimi manages to be both reserved and kinetic in his approach to the film and its dramatis personae, making this his most balanced outing yet as a director. For a guy who could never have been pegged as an "actor's director" after the EVIL DEAD flicks, that's one hell of an achievement.

My chief concern in visiting this film was its depiction of a small Southern town. After all, as we know from watching movies, small Southern towns are filled exclusively with near-mongloid half-wit Bible-thumpers in pickup trucks who chew tobacco plugs by the gross. To be fair, those guys and their good o' boy networks exist, but THE GIFT does not present them as the finest examples of our collective humanity.

Cate Blanchett is the epicenter of this film, and she's radiantly sympathetic and feminine, making the grief and weight of her life a compelling character story. She's Southern, sure, but not a caricature, and her strong portrayal allows one to overlook the stereotypes when they occur. All of the other actors (Keanu excepted) are fine to great, and I'd be remiss to not mention the always-excellent Gary Cole as the shady town prosecutor and J.K Simmons as the sheriff who's not quite as inept as he seems. Holmes seems to be stretching as the town bad girl, but this is actually a fairly daring role for her to take at this point in her career, so she earns props from me for it.

Southern Gothic is not easy to pull off, and good Southern Gothic requires skill and acuity. I have no doubt that screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton, whose own mother is reportedly a psychic, wrote what he knew, and one could imagine Karl Childers loping through any frame of this film wielding a bloody sling blade. It seems fashionable to bash Billy Bob these days, but I tend to enjoy his work and find this an honest attempt to tell a good story.

That doesn't change one iota that he's one lucky cracker to have lassoed Sam Raimi and Cate Blanchett. And Angelina.

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originally posted: 03/01/01 11:21:39
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good southern supernatural flick 4 stars
3/17/15 Dane Youssef A worthwhile southern supernatural noir. It's one of 2001's better. 5 stars
3/31/12 Sid Rumkowski Great film,has a "Slingblade" flavor to it. 5 stars
2/28/11 Monday Morning OK but just a little too slow. 3 stars
12/21/08 noops.... another good flick frm billy bob... Cate Blanchett as good as always 5 stars
2/11/07 Bitchflaps The inconsistent screenplay is rescued by skillful directing and compelling performances. 4 stars
1/10/07 David Pollastrini Katie Holmes is hot! Ditch tom! 3 stars
8/30/05 tatum "Murder, Steel Magnolias Wrote" 3 stars
7/28/05 jada good for tv viewing, wouldn't pay for it, cate great as usual 3 stars
6/22/04 teens the movie is great and now we have a remake of this film in india. 4 stars
3/05/04 john bale Some genuine shocks in this supernatural outing, thanks to Cate taking it seriously 4 stars
1/25/04 Elena So good except the awful, awful moronic ending that ruined everything. 4 stars
1/10/04 kaz morrison dream cast 5 stars
10/04/03 R.W. Welch Effectively done paranormal mystery, tho the ending is hard to buy. Top drawer acting. 4 stars
7/09/03 nr i loved this film it was great 5 stars
5/15/03 George Jung Tits! Now that I have your attention, this movie is perfect! Raimi is a perfect director. 5 stars
4/08/03 Shadaan Felfeli Its been a while since i saw the movie..but i recall enjoying it. Blanchet take a bow ! 4 stars
3/12/03 Blabity blah Great story telling. Blanchett/Reeves and Ribisi are EXCELLENT!! 5 stars
2/17/03 y2mckay Blanchett fantastic, not Raimi's best but good, Keanu actually acts. Oh, nice tits Katie 4 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Holmes' boobs are nice; Reeves is scary; Blanchett is superb! 4 stars
9/23/02 .Choadushouse. Ribisi is amazing. Holmes gives me a huge boner. And the movie gave me the chills. 4 stars
9/18/02 palaboy101 surprisingly good thriller 4 stars
8/13/02 blakers a great film 5 stars
7/13/02 Edfink Lombardo One of the year's creepiest. Katie Holmes is so hot. 5 stars
5/22/02 Phoenix Nice tities. 5 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee Katie Holmes' too-brief topless scene is all this overwrought mess has going for it. 2 stars
2/22/02 Jeff all around excellent movie 5 stars
1/13/02 Phil M. Afficianado When it is "not your kind of film" but you still like it, it's a good thing. 4 stars
1/06/02 Unanon actually managed to keep my attention! Bloody spooky at times too. 4 stars
12/22/01 Caiphn Thorton wrote this, Keanu was in it.. but it wasn't bad. 4 stars
11/27/01 sdfr ostensibly a "ghost" story, the film turns out to be much much more at the end. Good stuff 4 stars
10/17/01 Hum very close to being a very good movie 4 stars
9/13/01 Gary Masterful direction and a routinely great Blanchett, but poorly scripted and predictable. 2 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Creepiest fucking movie of the year! Too bad no one saw it! 5 stars
7/31/01 Monday Morning Thought Ribisi's/Reeves' characters were too over the top but film was still very good. 4 stars
7/22/01 Basil Giovanni Ribisi is excellent. 5 stars
7/20/01 greensweater boobies!! 4 stars
7/16/01 james shore there is to many parts were u r waitin to be scared 3 stars
5/04/01 Freak-77 Brilliant 5 stars
5/02/01 Geoff Only good things about this film. Katie Holmes showed us both of them. A truly lame effort. 2 stars
4/19/01 Tam A suspense thriller done well. Pretty good characterisation. 4 stars
3/27/01 JOSEPH LEEMAN katie homles was so hot in this movie 5 stars
3/20/01 Matthew Bartley Not very original but solidly done with the requisite shocks and scares 4 stars
3/04/01 Bob Cate Blanchett & Katie Holmes keep things intersting in this predictable but well-made crap 2 stars
2/24/01 Marie Very very boring. 1 stars
2/16/01 Rachem I really liked this flick... was sorta shocked that I did! 4 stars
2/13/01 HawthorneWingo Cate Blanchett character too much a freaking saint -- and the dead-husband subplot was crap 3 stars
2/12/01 Jake While not perfect, It was still astounding. Ribisi and Reeves were explosive! 5 stars
2/09/01 Keanuette Wonderfully suspenseful with a great all round cast, esp Keanu as Donnie *mo'fo* Barksdale 4 stars
2/09/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi A few minor ripoff vibes here and there, but why quibble?? Raimi & Co rules as always. 4 stars
2/09/01 Laura Pierce I took my hubby and he even liked it, so it has to be good! 5 stars
2/08/01 ObiWan Some genuinely exciting moments are in this film, but the ending ruins all credibility. 3 stars
2/07/01 Obi Wan Very entertaining, especially Katie Holmes...kinda reminded me of Beneath w/Pfeiffer & Ford 4 stars
1/25/01 Randy Director Holmes gets naked. 5 stars
1/24/01 JB Great fucking suspense. Keanu Reeves does a GREATJOB!!!! No BS! 5 stars
1/24/01 grunter You know Greg Kinnear did it from the moment he's introduced on screen 2 stars
1/22/01 Jupiter I'd go see any movie with Keanu Reeves in it. I wish he had been it this one more. 4 stars
1/21/01 earl duron well acted,effectively chilling yarn 4 stars
1/20/01 Buddy Acting is the best part. The ghost ending may suck, but Giovanni & Katie & Greg are cool 5 stars
1/09/01 Keanuette A very creepy supernatural thriller with good all round performances. KEANU is very good! 5 stars
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  19-Jan-2001 (R)


  12-Apr-2001 (M)

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