The Gift (2001) Paramount Classics
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes
Directed by: Sam Raimi

The Gift



Photo: Paramount Classics

Director Sam Raimi has long been an underestimated and ignored director. His films include such cult classics as ‘Evil Dead', ‘Army of Darkness' and the incredible ‘Darkman'. Yet, Raimi is also responsible for attempting to expand his visually intense genre films with the horrendous Kevin Costner romantic drama ‘For the Love of the Game'. In Raimi's latest film, he returns and displays his progress as a director in creating a film that will not only be limited to be loved by his cultist followers as were his cult classics, but that is a considerably well written and an ultimately satisfying and interesting film.

In sharing many similarities with his other character driven film ‘A Simple Plan' Raimi directs ‘The Gift', a superbly directed film that makes us eagerly anticipate Raimi's biggest film to date – next summer's Spider Man film.

‘The Gift' is at heart a murder mystery. Yet Raimi focuses the first 30 minutes of this film on the introduction of all the eerie and mysterious characters in this small redneck town. Cate Blanchett stars as Annie Wilson; a fortuneteller if you will who has reoccurring dreams concerning the small town's headline grabbing disappearance. The town's big-shot daughter suddenly disappears before her big wedding resulting in a cross-town mystery encapsulating everyone as a suspect. If the tagline ‘Everyone is a suspect' was ever so prevalent – it is in this film. Raimi paints a dark cloud over this simplistic little town and all the citizens that inhabit it. From suggestively incestuous relationships between father and daughter, to laissez-faire law enforcement officials to eerie redneck racists. Raimi brings to life a visual cross between a good old-fashioned murder mystery /dramatic thriller with a dash of horror that ends with a suggestively pervascent supernatural ending.

One element that in my opinion Raimi still has not mastered and that is visible in both ‘A Simple Plan' and ‘The Gift' is the pacing. It seems as if Raimi does not know when the audience has fully ingested all the character development or the clues to solving the mystery within his films. Both these two films have been compared and contrasted because Raimi is one of the few directors who has two completely different styles when it comes to the types of films he directs.

With his ‘Evil Dead' films, he brings forth a wild and terribly kinetic insanity that leave the audience dizzy after the film. As for the two films in question in this review, he lets off the visual wizardry quite a bit and expands upon the character's focus within the film's frame. ‘The Gift' boasts a great supporting cast including Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Hillary Swank and Katie Holmes. Raimi always has some great casting within his films and it is definitely shown within this film. All the characters that inhabit this town all have mysteries of their own and Raimi makes no attempt at masking this important and crucial element.

The only negativistic element in this film is that somewhere along the lines it quietly becomes a courtroom drama for a short period of time. This in turn removes us from the dramatic sequences that take place outside the courtroom and actually within the town that distract us from the great build-up to this point.

Nevertheless, once outside the courtroom Raimi's brilliance shines and the film returns to a quiet and subtle creepy thriller that makes good use of this director's visual abilities.

Click here to comment on this review or post your own thoughts.

Giancarlo De Lisi


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