The Gift

Peter Bradshaw: Lots of people in the film have been taking what seems to be a Berlitz cassette-tape course in How to Speak Hollywood Blue-Collar.

A Simple Plan was director Sam Raimi's much-admired graduation from genre shlock to serious movie-making. Now, sadly, he has given us what can only be described as An Unnecessarily Complicated and Boring Plan, having already tried our patience last year with the sugary baseball movie For Love of the Game. The Gift is a garbled supernatural thriller set in down-home Georgia with a peculiar element of old-fashioned Cluedo-ish whodunnit.

Cate Blanchett is Annie, a widow with three boys, who is blessed with the "gift": second sight. (She is supposedly based on co-writer Billy Bob Thornton's mother.) With this sixth sense, she can see soon-to-be-dead people. One in particular: southern belle Jessica King, played by Dawson's Creek ex-teen star Katie Holmes. Despite being a wealthy daddy's girl, she is engaged to humble schoolteacher Greg Kinnear (one of the film's many implausibilities) but turns out to have been fooling around with most of Georgia's male population. After her violent fate is made known, we are tacitly invited to indulge in any number of Colonel-Mustard-with-the-candlestick speculations. And all the time, our Cate is assailed with lightning-flash visions of blood, mud, corpses, chains and who knows what else.

Lots of people in the film - Blanchett herself, Giovanni Ribisi as the local disturbed mechanic, Hilary Swank as the local battered wife - have been taking what seems to be a Berlitz cassette-tape course in How to Speak Hollywood Blue-Collar. They all do that very earnestly authentic actor's impression of trailer trash: "Ah wen day-un ter thuh stow-uh", etc.

The worst offender, I am sorry to say, is Keanu Reeves, an actor who regained his place in our hearts with The Matrix, but looks like losing it with his absurd and unpleasant performance as Donnie, a boorish redneck who raises his hay-und to his wife and threatens Cate and the kee-uds. His plump face is lumpen with malign stupidity, and an unwelcome change from the ingenuous perplexity of Neo. To paraphrase Margot Beste-Chetwynde in Evelyn Waugh: we like you puzzled, Keanu, but not absolutely cretinous.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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