Discs Are Rated
Click above to purchase "The Gift" at amazon.com
review by Ren C.
Running Time: 111 minutes
Starring Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu
Reeves, Katie Holmes
Written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson
Directed by Sam Raimi
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Featurette, Music Video, Theatrical
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital
English 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround,
English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Scene
Released: July 17th, 2001
"The Gift" is one of those films that just seemed to slip
under the collective radar of the movie going public early
this year being almost completely overlooked both from a
commercial and critical standpoint. This is unfortunate,
especially considering the amount of talent both behind and
in front of the camera. I was amazed at the number of
quality actors present in this film, among them Cate
Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, and Greg Kinnear. I was also
surprised to learn that Billy Bob Thornton, also noted for
writing and starring in "Sling Blade" wrote the screenplay.
Sam Raimi, noted for directing such movies as "Evil Dead"
and "Army of Darkness" is at the helm here, and does a good
job of ensuring that all the actors mesh.
"The Gift" is a mix between a thriller and a whodunit.
The story centers on Annie Wilson (Blanchett), who is forced
to make a living for herself and her children after her
husband's unfortunate and tragic death. She does so by
offering "readings" of ESP cards, by using the psychic
ability, or gift, that she possesses. By using this ability,
she comes to know the local residents, and to become
involved in their lives, especially the life of Valerie
Barksdale (Hilary Swank) who Annie encourages to leave her
husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves) because he is abusive. He
takes offense at this, and starts to threaten her children.
Annie is worried, with good reason, but doesn't go to the
Annie is also involved with her son's teacher Wayne
(Kinnear), and his fiancé Jessica King (Katie
Holmes). It is around this time that she starts to have
disturbing nightmares that she cannot seem to interpret. It
is also around this time that Jessica disappears. The police
are clueless, and turn to Annie in hopes that she will be
able to use her gift to help. The question becomes; can
Annie use her gift and interpret her dreams in time to save
Jessica from a horrible fate?
This plot description only skims the surface of the many
different levels that are present in this movie. Another
very powerful performance comes from Giovanni Ribisi,
playing Buddy, the town mechanic who suffers from delusions.
Ribisi may well give the best performance of his career
here, taking a character that may have been over the top in
the hands of another actor and making it very nuanced. I
also am very impressed with Blanchett who seems to
completely submerge her English accent in favor of a generic
southern accent. The other actors work as well, to varying
degrees, with Katie Holmes especially seeming to be slightly
out of place as the town belle.
The movie as a whole, however, seemed to lack that
certain something that it needed to gel. At times, the
actors seemed to exist in their own worlds before coming
together, and several characters seemed to be in the movie
for no apparent reason. I also had a problem with the ending
that seemed to come out of left field. However, these slight
problems are not enough to bring down what is otherwise a
very enjoyable movie.
The anamorphic transfer of this movie looks very good and
holds up to my very high standards for recently released
movies. As with most thrillers, there is a lot of black in
the movie, and it looks very dark and rich. The other colors
were vibrant and flesh tones were not saturated. I noticed
only a very few small blemishes on the transfer, which were
certainly not enough to detract from enjoyment of the movie.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounded very eerie, with
ambient sounds coming through especially well. Some of the
scenes in the woods were aided by the sounds that we tend to
take for granted at night, such as wind and woodland
creatures. Dialogue was very clear, and the select amount of
music used in the movie was present enough to be heard but
not overpowering. Also available are an English Dolby
Digital 2.0 track and a French Dolby 2.0 track, along with
English subtitles and closed captions.
While nothing groundbreaking is present, this is a nice
collection of features, especially for what are generally
lackluster Paramount discs. The major supplement is a
featurette on the making of "The Gift", which runs about ten
minutes and rehashes the plot of the movie and how the
actors felt about it. The featurette is really notable only
for contrasting the way that Cate Blanchett can change her
accent seemingly at will.
Also included is a music video by the new to me Neko Case
& Her Boyfriends, who serve up "Furnace Room Lullaby". I
don't recall hearing this song in the movie, but the video
is the typical soundtrack video, mixing clips from the movie
with clips of the artist. Definitely an unusual song, but
nice that it was provided. Wrapping up the features is the
theatrical trailer in Dolby Digital 2.0.
I think that "The Gift" is one of those movies that get
better with each viewing. Again, while not a box office hit,
the movie is interesting and certainly a change from the
norm. If you are a fan of any of the actors involved,
especially Giovanni Ribisi, or just enjoy a good thriller,
definitely check this movie out. Recommendation to rent
first, especially considering the fairly steep retail price.
(3.5/5 - NOT included in
NOT an average)