Keanu Reeves, Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi
Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson
Lakeshore Entertainment/Paramount Classics
"The Gift" is a fairly typical suspense thriller made not so typical by the performances of lead Cate Blanchett as Annie Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi as Buddy Cole and Keanu Reeves (Really!) as Donnie Barksdale.
Australian born Blanchett is simply wonderful here as a Southern woman struggling to get by after the tragic death of her husband...she supplements her income by doing readings for townsfolk. Blanchett inhabits the character of Wilson...her pain, her frustration, her fear and conviction. Her scenes with Ribisi are achingly beautiful...and her scenes with Reeves, as an abusing spouse who begins threatening Blanchett when he realizes that Blanchett is urging his wife to leave him, are suspenseful, frightening and powerful.
Hilary Swank does a nice job as the abused wife, but it is Reeves...with his beard and moustache, who completely stuns here as he clearly relishes the opportunity to go against his type in casting. Reeves is frightening and dark in this role.
Ribisi, on other hand, has most of the film's truly powerful scenes...as an adult clearly struggling to overcome his childhood, Ribisi's performance is haunting and convincing. His scene confronting Reeves is almost cosmically wonderful.
In other roles, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons and Michael Jeter all do a nice job and are great compliments to the cast. An additional, smaller, performance by Gary Cole is also a shiner here...Cole, who I'm used to seeing in comedic roles shines as a lawyer here.
The film is directed by Sam Raimi...and a lot of the wonderful qualities he adds to most of his films are present here. You have suspense, action but with a tremendous humanity. These characters are characters you care about...you feel them...like or dislike...approve or disapprove.
The film is also scripted by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson. While I'd consider the script the weaker link here, there's still something positive. The characters, while not surrounded by a solid plot...nonetheless, are well developed and intriguing. You can even watch for a cameo by noted score composer and former Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman.
"The Gift" is not a must-see film, but it is a film worth watching. The individual performances are powerful, convincing and bring out outstanding performances by Blanchett, Ribisi and Reeves.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic