Monday, May 4, 2009
The Gift. Feature film. (2000, 112 mins) IMDB
large, large cast with many familiar faces. It's unusual to have such a large cast of A list actors in a drama. A spoof? A comedy? Sure, but not a straight up drama as surely this film must be classified.
Because there is such a large cast, the setup is long and to my surprise I found that much more interesting than the main plot that followed. There's probably a lesson there. The question is how to articulate it at this moment that makes any sense from a dramatic point of view. It isn't enough to say we meet a bunch of characters living their lives because even then there are characters we don't meet until later in the film plus just living isn't necessarily dramatic or interesting. It could be questions were raised and we're searching for answers.
There is a structure to this film but it isn't a traditional Hollywood structure. In most films an inciting incident pokes our hero and forces him to take some sort of action. He (in this film she) is forced to respond to some event and the story is set in motion. There is no clear inciting incident in this film and, if it does happen, it certainly doesn't happen in the first five or ten minutes of the film. I could be wrong because it could have been some "psychic" vision she had, but because to me being psychic is the same as being a con, I didn't pick up on it.
Our hero is a psychic and hence the title although she might not see it as a gift. Normally, I would trash movies based on paranormal and supernatural for the simple reason it's faked and false and non-sense and I'm biased against such films. Anyone who says they have psychic ability is a liar and con artist--someone out to steal your money by giving you with bullshit. Anyone who believes in psychics needs to grow up, but that's too much to ask for. Hell, people still believe in gods or a god.
For some reason I bought the notion that Kate Blanchette had a psychic ability, that she could see events in her mind even though she'd never been there at the time. And for some reason I didn't hold it against her. I think I know why. First, she's a widowed mother of three boys living in near poverty. Second, she's persecuted for her activities. While I can say psychics are liars and cons, scratch that. Psychics are cons and shouldn't be allowed to operate. Period. They are frauds and as other frauds are illegal so should they. That's the right word. Frauds.
She's not persecuted for being a psychic, she's harassed by a jealous, thuggish husband. One of her clients (Swank) is the wife a wife-beater. Our hero tries to talk some sense into her about leaving her husband and rightly so. No woman or kid should be physically abused by a husband or father. The husband (surprisingly played by Keanu) goes after our hero. Threatening her and her sons. We don't like him at all as a result and for good reason. I have no idea why he took this role because he certainly didn't need the money.
At this point you'd think these actions formed the central focus of the story line, but it's only part of it.
Our heroes' son is acting up at school. Off to the principal's office she goes where she meets the one person in the film who isn't a redneck--Kinnear. (They call themselves rednecks). During this meeting, we meet another central character. His fiancée, Jessica. Gorgeous and wild. Just as we soon discover she's not faithful. She likes to screw and that means with different men.
Not long after that, Jessica goes missing. The father and police come to her to see if she sees anything and she does. Based on her psychic ability, she sees the dead Jessica. A search follows and the body is found.
There was some over the top, melodramatic, telegraphed directing during this scene. Police in boats are raking the bottom of the pond. One yells out he got something. What follows is a drawn out. Close ups on key players, the focus on the slow recovery of the rake until it's revealed to be a bicycle and we knew it to be begin with. Ugh.
But, not long after, the real thing happens. Her body is pulled from the pond. I was surprised they showed her partially nude body, but if you like Katie Holmes, you can see more later.
With her death, comes a trial. The wife-beater is tried because it was his pond and he has a tendency to violence and he was seen with her on the night of the murder. Open and shut case.
The threat to our hero is gone because he's found guilty and sent away. Except she's a psychic and sees visions and in those visions she's convinced he's not guilty even though she's not crying because he's in jail.
Act III. Find out what really happened. Since her visions come in spurts and aren't entirely clear, she struggles to see the truth, plus the fact the prosecutor et al don't want anything more to do with the case. It's over.
But magically, the ex-fiancée comes back into the picture. He wants to know what she sees because he killed Jessica. The nerd as the killer. How original. And how pathetic to have him spill his guts to answer all the questions etc. Can't they be more original or smart? I guess not. We've seen this type of ending so many times...
Posted 2009/05/04 at 20h46ET in Movie Commentary.