Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Gift

(2000) ****1/2

If Sam Raimi stopped making movies, I think The Gift would be rememb -- KATIE HOLMES TOPLESS!

What? Who said that? Anyway, I was saying that The Gift is my pick for Sam Raimi's best movie. Not best horror movie, not my favorite, not the most fun. But the most sophisticated, the most character-driven, and the most moving.

Cate Blanchett plays Annie Wilson, a widowed mother in a rural Georgia town who makes ends meet by offering her services as a psychic to her neighbors. When her help is sought to find missing bad girl Katie Holmes, she finds herself the center of unwanted attention from both sides of the grave.

The achievement here is the complex, interlocking story that gives equal time to a large cast of characters and ultimately delivers a solid, smart sense of community. This includes good and bad elements of the community, for instance here’s Keanu Reeves, in what is probably his most convincing performance ever, playing a scary local redneck with a grudge. Another standout is Giovanni Ribisi, as Annie's emotionally troubled friend Buddy. (I'd say it's his best performance too, but I haven't seen that movie where he and Juliette Lewis are retarded.)

I just love this home-grown approach to stories about psychic talent, especially in this setting. With a generous amount of melancholy strings in the soundtrack and moss hanging off the trees, The Gift takes full advantage of the spookiness of the South. There aren’t really any vicious scares, but the mood satisfies like good wine and there’s an unexpected dark trench of psychological horror that blindsides Annie right in the middle of the whodunnit.

This is a singular piece of work for everybody involved. Seriously, don’t miss it.

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