Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Gift (2000) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Chances are that a small town in Georgia is going to include an equal proportion of rednecks, religious maniacs and nutters. There is something about the Deep South that encourages extremes, not all of them desirable.
Cate Blanchett is psychic, Giovanni Ribisi behaves like the living dead when he forgets to take his medication, Keanu Reeves beats up his wife (Hilary Swank), Katie Holmes is anyone's despite being engaged to the school principal (Greg Kinnear) and the sheriff thinks a missing eclair more important than the miscarriage of justice.
Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson have written an absorbing murder mystery, in which the interpretation of dreams is considered valuable enough to be used as evidence in court. When the daughter of the richest man in town is dragged from the bottom of a muddy pond because of the psychic's premonition, you know this can be no ordinary thriller.
Gothic overtones only emphasise the unstable nature of these characters. Life has an inbred rhythm to it and eccentricity spreads like moss over trees.
Blanchett, as a young widow with three boys, acts with a European sensibility, which appears too sophisticated for Brixton, Georgia. Ribisi's mentally disturbed garage mechanic has a thing about his father, which leads to yet more violence. As an actor (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room), he goes from strength to strength.
Reeves plays against type and is only too convincing as a hick with a short fuse ("Messin' with the Devil's gonna git you burned"), while Swank, who won an Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, seems underused in the role of the victim in an abusive marriage. Holmes is beautiful and Kinnear typically smooth.
The South draws them in, the misfits and the bigots. The trick is to make it believable, without indulging the madness. Sam Raimi almost pulls it off. Second sight is a cue for shock horror flashbacks, which proves irresistible for the director of Dead By Dawn. A little more of Hitchcock's understatement would have helped.Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2001