I know when I started this series I promised once a week…and that was well over a month ago! So in an effort to not lie to you, I won’t promise once a week. I will promise as often as I can! I’m thinking I can definitely commit to once a month. In all honesty, who wants this to get stale? I sure as hell don’t! Sam Raimi is my hero and I want to make your course in Sam Raimi and His Films 101 as fun as it has been for me to learn all of this over the past nearly 16 years since he has been my hero! Let’s get into this!
The Gift is crafted from a screenplay by Tom Epperson and Billy Bob Thornton, who Raimi worked with on 1998’s A Simple Plan. It tells the tale of Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett), a widowed mother of three who is a clairvoyant. She runs her own parlor out of her home, reading cards and caters to many different townsfolk. When we come in to Annie’s life she has just been asked to assist in helping to find the fate of young socialite Jessica King (played by a pre-Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes). Annie leads them to Jessica’s watery grave in the pond of the town wife-abuser played by Keanu Reeves. In the midst of trying to raise her three sons, finding herself painfully attracted to Jessica’s fiancee, Annie must also defend her credibility, her gift.
Blanchett shines in one of her unexpectedly best performances as the gifted widow. In fact the cast is one of the things that makes the film as strong as it is. Featuring performances from JK Simmons, Giovanni Ribisi, Chelcie Ross, Greg Kinnear and Hilary Swank, it is a veritable who’s who of seasoned character actors mixed with Hollywood stars. If the script had been attached to another director without the resume of Raimi’s perhaps the film would have never taken the same flight and not received the mainstream acting attention it did.
Ribisi’s portrayal of Buddy Cole, the town dimwit is perhaps the most heart-wrenching and best played. He turns the screw of innocence sparked with an underlying strength that leaves you unsure of just what he is capable of, especially in the wake of Jessica’s death.
The direction is taught and pointed. Raimi proves himself again and again as he stretches the tension until it is about to break. He even manages to throw in a couple of really good jump scares. To this day I usually fast forward through one scene in particular because no matter how well I think I’ve timed it it ALWAYS gets me. The film was shot in and around Savannah, Georgia and Raimi definitely brings the feel of Southern gothic full circle. Especially in any of the scenes filmed near the pond or near water at all. He let’s the nature and surroundings become a character.
The Gift in an underrated film and rightfully so as it really doesn’t fit into a genre that Raimi can be known for; drama. Yes, it could be considered Horror, but let’s be real, it’s a dramatic thriller. It came off the heels of the one Raimi film I vowed to never watch again, For Love of The Game, which is not a bad film, but definitely not a typical Raimi film. The Gift was the last film Raimi made before kicking off his Spiderman series. Which incidentally was the moment when most of us worried we had lost him forever. This most definitely was not the case. In the Spiderman series he still utilized his famous jump cuts (as I call them) and let The Classic (his oft-used car) cameo. Not to mention a few years later he assured most of his purists with Drag Me To Hell…but that’s another story for another day!
As promised, at the end of each post I will include a poster from the Evil Dead Series as a parting gift. This is the original UK quad poster(well, the original artwork, no poster info)!
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Sam Raimi’s career. Stay tuned for the next exciting adventure of Sam Raimi 101!