Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Gift (2000) (5 Stars)

In my eyes this is a forgotten masterpiece. It was made in 2000 when Sam Raimi was still best known for "Evil Dead", before he hit the big time by directing "Spider-Man" (which I really ought to watch again soon, it's been too long). "The Gift" doesn't have the gore of "Evil Dead" or the action of "Spider-Man". It's a perfectly crafted super-natural drama. If anything, it's a perfect example of character development. We know and understand all the main characters and some of the minor characters. The film has an intricacy with various sub-plots bubbling beneath the surface, but it never becomes too difficult to follow.

Cate Blanchett is Annie Wilson, a single mother of three children, a year after the death of her husband in an accident at work. She makes money by laying cards to read the future.

Keanu Reeves is Donnie Barksdale, a good Christian man who hates Satanic fortune tellers and beats his wife.

Hilary Swank is Valerie Barksdale, Donnie's wife and Annie's main customer.

Giovanni Ribisi is Buddy Cole, a mentally disturbed young car mechanic whose only friend is Annie.

J. K. Simmons is absolutely amazing as Pearl Johnson, the town's sheriff. Despite his limited screen time his words and his mannerisms help us to know him inside out.

Greg Kinnear is Wayne Collins, a school teacher who's engaged to marry the mayor's daughter.

Katie Holmes is Jessica King, the mayor's daughter.

At the time "The Gift" was made Katie Holmes was still one of the main cast in the TV series "Dawson's Creek", in which she played the teenager Joey Potter. Katie was no longer a teenager, she was just blessed with looking young. "The Gift" gave her an opportunity to play an adult role, which shocked many of her fans at the time. When I lived in America I watched the first two seasons of "Dawson's Creek" on television and considered her to be the series' most talented actress. "The Gift" showed another side to her acting skills, and she has gone on to bigger success in recent years.

In "The Gift" Katie is brutally murdered. There are no eye witnesses. The only person who can help the investigations is Annie Wilson. Unfortunately, her gift doesn't mean that she can look at the cards on the table and see everything. She only has flashes of events, not enough to give the police all the answers, even if they were willing to believe her. She can't lay cards for herself, only for others, and if the person sitting opposite her is a sceptic she sees nothing.

The setting of the story in Brixton, Georgia makes the film even more appealing. The audience is caught up in the claustrophobic small town atmosphere. The church is everything, and if you're not a member you're an outcast. The church holds together. If one of its members is accused of a crime, however heinous, the rest of the congregation pulls together to protect him.

The film is perfect in so many ways. The slow plodding development of the plot is never boring. Even Keanu Reeves, who rarely impresses me as an actor, puts on an outstanding performance. If you haven't seen this film, look for it now. It's a masterpiece.

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