Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie #200: The Gift

The Gift is a ghost story directed by Sam Raimi, and starring (deep breath) Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Keanu Reeves, Gary Cole, Giovanni Risibi, and hell, who am I forgetting? Well, it's a hell of a cast.

Annie Wilson (Blanchett) is a fortune-teller in a small town in the South (they say the state, I just don't remember - might be Mississippi). She uses Zener Cards to perform the readings (but it's pretty obvious from the movie that the cards are just a focus for her; her psychic talent is obvious ingrained and powerful). She tells her friend Valerie (Swank) that she needs to get the hell away from her abusive husband (Reeves, playing the bad guy, which he should do more of). Wilson is a widow herself, and her three sons aren't dealing with their father's death especially well.

The principal of her sons' school, Wayne Collins (Kinnear) is a little sweet on her, but he's engaged to Jessica King (Holmes), daughter of the rich and powerful Kenneth King (Chelchie Ross). She's also screwing around, which Wilson notices, and then she disappears, and Wilson has dreams that lead her and sheriff (J.K. Simmons) to the pond where she's buried...which is Valerie and Donny's land. He's convicted, and in the midst of the trial, Buddy Cole (Risibi) goes nuts and tries to kill his sexually abusive father. And then the dreams start again - the wrong man got convicted.

Holy shit, this cast. The movie is good and well-directed and scripted and plays fair by the audience. But it's the cast that makes it exceptional. You've got a bunch of real professionals, but the one who anchors it - Blanchett - isn't hammy, she's quietly powerful. And that lets all of them stretch a bit. Swank is vulnerable and weak and kind of stupid. Holmes is slutty and a little mean. Keanu is extremely douchey. It's just a good cast.

Also, it's a good ghost story, and that's always fun. And the end, in which the now-dead Buddy returns to help Annie survive the real killer's attack, is nicely sweet and sad, and extremely well-telegraphed by Risibi (his performance in general might be my favorite).

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Girl Next Door