The Gift (2000): ***1/2
Director: Sam Raimi
This movie is a fantastic example of how a good director and good actors can make a movie rise above an okay script. The script, by Billy Bob Thornton and his long-time collaborator, is actually a pretty standard small-town psychic murder mystery. The visual style is just so compellingly moody and the acting so rooted in reality (for the most part). Since the cast is what made this movie, I'll talk mostly about it:
Kate Blanchett plays the protagonist. She is the emotional center of the movie, the character through whom we see all the events unfold. In fact, I believe she is in every scene in the movie... I can't think of one she's not in right now. I'm a sucker for movies that have one actor in every scene. In this movie she has a flawless soft southern accent. So I've seen movies where she's had flawless British, New Jersey, and Southern accents.
Somehow, and I'm not sure how, Sam Raimi and Keanu worked out a way to make Keanu look huge. Huge. He's like a damned bear in this movie, incredibly physically imposing. And although Keanu is actually very good in the role, the character is a bit overboard at times. I mean, he doesn't need to say "fag" or "nigger" just so we know he's a bad guy; we already know he beats his wife, and he threatened the main character in her own home in front of her children. The slurs almost seemed thrown in the script at the last minute just because someone thought "Hmm, he's an evil hick, he should say racial slurs, right?"
The casting choice of Katie Holmes is the one that, unfortunately stuck out like a sore thumb. Not that she's bad in the role, it's just that she looks like she's sixteen, even if you dress her in adult clothes. I was expecting someone to make a comment about statutory rape or Greg Kinnear robbing the cradle. It was a little distracting. Also, her topless scene seemed a little un-necessary (not when she was a corpse--that makes sense).
The ending was very cheesy, like something out of Psi-Factor. I won't say anything else, but it is a credit to Sam Raimi that an ending like that actually worked pretty well and didn't stand out against the tone of the rest of the movie.
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