THE GIFT directed by Sam Raimi, written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, produced by James Jacks, Tom Rosenberg and Robert G. Tapert, with Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank and Giovanni Ribisi. 110 minutes. A Lakeshore/Alphaville production. A Paramount Classics release. Opens Friday (January 19). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 73. Rating: NNN
once upon a time, sam raimi was noted for his zombie movies and as the producer of the Hercules and Xena franchises.
Then people started taking him seriously, and the result has been a kind of deadening respectability. Witness last year's somnolent and sentimental baseball movie For Love Of The Game.
He's back on home ground with The Gift, a supernatural thriller, but it does have a languid quality that one might have thought inimical to the director of the Evil Dead movies.
Cate Blanchett is a widowed mother of three with a touch of second sight who acts as a freelance fortune teller/counsellor to the other residents of her small Georgia town.
Everybody's overheated, from Katie Holmes as the rich girl to Keanu Reeves as Donnie, the town's wife-beater. And, this being a southern gothic, everybody in the picture has dark secrets that come to light when Holmes disappears just before her wedding to schoolteacher Greg Kinnear.
There's been talk about The Gift as an Oscar contender, but I suspect that buzz comes from people who looked at the cast list rather than the film itself.
This picture certainly has an embarrassment of riches in the acting area.
It's got freshly minted Oscar winner Hilary Swank in a small supporting role as Reeves' badly abused wife, and Raimi even manages to get a convincing accent out of Reeves, which will shock anyone who remembers his on-again, off-again stab at an accent in The Devil's Advocate.
It's impossible to argue for The Gift as a particularly good film -- it's definitely not up to standard for either Raimi or screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton -- but it's fun to watch the defiantly non-southern cast swan around like characters in a bad Faulkner adaptation.
Given the sorts of movies that generally open in January, fun like this is not to be dismissed lightly.