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The Gift

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Now here's a movie that takes a chance on its cast and succeeds. That is to say, no type casting appears to have snuck in- so you have no clue as to who dunitt five minutes into the story—not unlike the brilliant Seven's choice to leave the instantly recognizable badguypsycho (Kevin Spacey) off the credits.

Cate Blanchett is one hell of an actress. She is deceivingly calm, almost translucent. As Annie Wilson, the movie's woman with a sixth sense, aka the gift, Cate's emotions rip through that calm. At times she's so intense she's like a barracuda with its eye set on a chunky tourist floundering about in the surf.

However, let me rant about the man who really owns this movie; Mega under rated Giovanni Ribisi. Those who know of his perpetualy perfect works make sure they're at the opening night of anything with his name on the credits (okay Other Sister faux pas aside—but he was still good in that complete piece of film sheet). For those who aren't familiar with this little dynamo of thespian-isms, this is a super introduction. His portrayal of disturbed volatile Buddy Cole is by far one of the finest performances by any actor on film. Too strong an opinion...just go take a look.

Billy Bob Thorton and Tom Epperson penned this interesting tale of a small town fortune teller who among her many gifts, gets to have encounters with dead grandparents and pre and post homicidal visions of the macabre. Yehaw! A gift best left under the tree if you know what I'm saying. Eeerie. The characters are very well crafted, no gaping holes in their celluloid souls—if at times the women are unrealistically naive and the storyline a bit ennui. For the most part the players are extremely believable. Of course, the consummate actors breathing life into them helped a wee bit...

The Gift's story goes...Annie Wilson (Blanchett) is a widower who supports her boys with her special talent of reading the townsfolks' futures. She has some friends. One in particular is a sad mentally tortured man Buddy (brilliant Giovanni) who begs Annie to help him from his recurring horrid thoughts...and some then, less "friendly neighbor" sorts. Like her client's husband who got that shining backwood's- redneck-rabid pitbull-God fearin'-wife beatin'- beer drinkin'-truck pullin' hypocrite squared personality, Donnie Barksdale. Sees' Don ain't too happy with all Annie's satanic voodoo jive talkin' she's been feeding the little Mrs.

Donnie likes to spar in a little one sided boxing with his Iggy Pop- thin bride and skankfest , Valerie (Hillary Swank). Annie advises Val she should get away from the wife beating pig. Of course Uber idiot,Val, tells Donnie where she's getting all these unchristian divorce thoughts...

Then there's the missing rich gal, Jessica King (Katie Holmes)...With no leads, and only dead ends, her fiancé Wayne (a delectable Greg Kinnear) and father come to Annie for a "reading." Creep-o-rama. Annie obliges and the movies momentum really begins.

This is one of the few films that you really wont know, all along, who done it, where, and in the library with the candlestick.

Hillary Swank, as Valerie Barksdale, is absolutely fabulous as a common Lynyrd Skynyrd groupie wanna be with a really dated hair doo.(No! Not like in this photo...)

Keanu Reeves, as Donnie Barksdale, delivers another fine performance as a big old psycho. I know he's the valedictorian of the Nicholas Cage School of Acting (Motto: "One expression, is all expressions"), but he's turning in some dark and interesting multi-emotional performances...will the mediocre actors award been won by another, less pretty man, from now on? Has he shed his dude in a hot bod image...m'could be.

Greg Kinnear, who just keeps the steady flow of impeccable performances-a-comin', does yet another marvelous job. He's a mighty handsome guy to boot. Jumping catfish he's a looker! Why never a nude scene..too much to ask Hollywood? This man's a Sheppard's Pie of delicious layers. A big old serving of comfort food... Yum-o-rama gals.

But a complaint on the film does spring to mind...Maybe writers Thorton and Eppington should take a course like Real Woman101 before they co-write again. Because their "Annie" did some plum dumb things. Annie, who has this supposed magical instinct, was grossly idiotic with frequency. A great example of one of those-never-in-a-million-years-would-any-mother-or-woman-be-this darn-stupid things? She leaves her kids outside, at night, alone, while all 98 pounds of her inspects their house. A house that not only has the front door unlocked and ajar upon their return, but someone has turned up the Jesus station on their radio to full blast...presumably occurring while the family was out. Women, in real life, would turn around immediately and exit stage left.

The girlie-girl quintessential- horror- airhead scenes- aside, it's an enjoyable chiller with more than a few surprises.

Snack recommendation: Chocolate cake with lots of icing.

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Michael Jeter and Gary Cole (I)

Directed by: Samuel M. Raimi


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