Director:Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan, For Love of the Game)
Cast:Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Gary Cole
Run Time:111 minutes
A woman with psychic powers is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a young socialite.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Cate Blanchett makes this a must see thriller.
THE FULL REVIEW
It is no secret that the winter months are generally reserved by film studios for the release of those movies that have less than stellar prospects. The northern half of the U.S. generally goes into leisure mode during the spring and summer, so that’s the opportune time to release the big-budget blockbusters that are less taxing on the brain. The more high-minded films are released in the fall, so that the best screenplays and the top acting performances will be fresh in the minds of the 4,200 voting members of the Academy when Oscar ballots are mailed out each January.
I bring this up because the context in which I see a particular film plays such a critical role in how I ultimately judge it. Perhaps that is why Wonder Boys, a lone bright spot during last winter’s movie doldrums, was able to earn itself the #3 spot on my Top Films of 2000 list.
This brings me to the new thriller directed by Sam Raimi called The Gift, which stars Cate Blanchett as Annie Wilson, a woman with psychic powers who is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a young socialite named Jessica King. This film was thankfully, but nonetheless unwisely, released by Paramount Classics just as the winter lull was beginning to take hold. I say thankfully because the screenplay from Billy Bob Thorton and Tom Epperson, despite dragging at times, is smart enough to serve as the perfect diversion from hibernation on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I say unwisely because Blanchett delivers such a compelling performance in her role as the tormented Annie Wilson, that she would have almost certainly at least attracted some Oscar buzz for the film had it been released later in the year. As it stands now, The Gift will be lucky to gross $10 million at the box office, a major disappointment for Lakeshore and Paramount, particularly in light of the fact that the film features a big-name cast.
Keanu Reeves is surprisingly good as Donnie Barksdale, a wife beater and town bully with a hair-trigger temper. True to form, Hilary Swank is utterly convincing as Valerie Barksdale, the object of Donnie’s wrath. Giovanni Ribisi extends his already wide range of acting abilities with a gutsy performance as Buddy Cole, a desperate and mentally troubled young man who has befriended Annie. Katie Holmes follows up her juicy role in Wonder Boys with a small but even tastier part in this film as the scandalous Jessica King. Finally, Greg Kinnear, with his boyish good looks, is perfectly cast as Miss King’s affable fiancée, Wayne Collins.
Lakeshore and Paramount should really be ashamed of the fact that they have been unable to generate more revenue from this film. After all, Dreamworks was able to rake in more than $150 million last year with its summer release of What Lies Beneath, an utterly unthrilling thriller that lacked much originality beneath its slick veneer.
I must say, however, that there is still a glimmer of hope for the folks over at Paramount. Once word gets out that the sweet but sexy Joey from Dawson’s Creek reveals a bit more of herself than usual in this film, The Gift is likely to become the video of choice for the hoards of adoring Katie Holmes fans across the country. And from the looks of things, they should be able to pick up a copy of The Gift at their local Blockbuster some time next week.
* Great cast
* Oscar worthy performance from Cate Blanchett
* Some truly thrilling and creepy moments
* Katie Holmes
*The story drags a bit
* Nudity: A brief gift from Katie Holmes
* Violence: Minor
* Humor: None