[box cover]

The Gift

Take a small, swampy Southern town, mix in an assortment of sexist redneck crackers, mentally disturbed paranoiacs, and K-Mart-clothes wearing gals with big hair, and you have the ingredients for an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger or the setting for The Gift — a psychological thriller from a screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson. The Gift stars Cate Blanchett as Annie, the town psychic who dispenses common-sense advice and serves as counselor and psychologist to those who come to have her read their cards. Her clientele include the seriously demented mechanic Giovanni Ribisi — who has some major father issues — and mousy abused wife Hillary Swank, who can't live with or without her bullying husband (Keanu Reeves). When local rich girl Katie Holmes disappears, the authorities — who have no suspects and no clues — turn to Annie in a last-ditch effort to locate the missing girl. Through her visions — and a few plot twists — Annie attempts to piece together answers to the girl's disappearance and murder. Director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, A Simple Plan) does an admirable job with a marginally adequate script, slipping only when he resorts to clichéd horror-movie "don't go in there" techniques as substitutes for more subtle, sophisticated filmmaking. The ensemble cast is solid, with fine performances by Swank (in her first role since her Oscar-winning performance in Boys Don't Cry), an electrifying Ribisi, and a terrifying Reeves. In addition, both Greg Kinnear as Holmes' fiancÈ and Gary Cole as the shady local D.A. are well cast and convincing. But what raises the film above mediocre is the outstanding work of Blanchett — an actress with a seemingly unlimited range, who here creates a sympathetic character both strong and vulnerable as well as riveting to watch. The Gift was a box-office disappointment and actually works better as a film to watch at home on a Friday night. Paramount's DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Special features include an ass-kissing cast-and-crew interview segment, a theatrical trailer, and a music video of "Furnace Room Lullaby" performed by Neko Case & Her Boyfriends. Keep-case.
—Kerry Fall



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