Film Scouts Reviews

"The Gift"

by Jonathan Robert Muirhead

After the Coen-esque A Simple Plan, Sam Raimi delivers this gothic tale of small-town Americana. Raimi's sure touch fails him in his eagerness to shock. He employs flashes and screechy stringed instruments. His camerawork continues to impress. We're in the room with the characters. There are too many tortuous twists and turns, not convincing enough to hold our attention.

Cate Blanchett plays a kind, motherly medium, giving readings to the locals, grieving for her late husband. Meeting teacher Greg Kinnear and his fiancée Katie Holmes, she suffers visions of Holmes as a corpse. Blanchett is superb; with a gift she doesn't want, but cannot live without. The scene where Blanchett comforts messed-up garage hand Billy-Bob Thornton is very touching, their relationship one of the film's strengths.

Keanu Reeves overacts with cliched mannerisms and unconvincing accent, as a wife-beating redneck. The sense of empathy between the characters is very convincing although, watching their actions and mannerisms, one feels one is watching stereotypes in a film. The pacing's too sluggish, Raimi allows tensions to dissipate far too quickly, such as the encounter between Reeves, Thornton and Blanchett's son.

He's also too heavy-handed with symbolism. Blanchett repeatedly awakens from nightmares concerning Holmes at 01:30 a.m. We know Blanchett's foreseen the murder of Holmes. Greg Kinnear isn't allowed enough screen time to make the central relationship convincing. Only the quality of acting talent saves The Gift from being really bad.

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