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Film / The Gift (2000)

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A 2000 Horror/Mystery Fiction film directed by Sam Raimi, written by Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, and starring Cate Blanchett, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Kim Dickens.

Annie Wilson is a young widow trying to make ends meet in a small town in Alabama as a clairvoyant. She's booked around the clock by those seeking advice, but the rest of the town sees her either as a liar or a witch. Annie is called upon by those who normally don't ask for her help, however, when the daughter of the richest man in town goes missing and the investigation hits a brick wall. As she tries to help the investigation, being contacted by the ghost of the missing woman the whole time, her normal duties of being a widowed mother and advising some locals with some very real problems of their own begins to fall apart.

Not to be confused with The Gift (2015).

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: It’s revealed that Buddy’s father was abusing him sexually and his mother knew but did nothing.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Jessica King. Also Valerie.
  • Alliterative Name: David Duncan.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Thanks to her clairvoyance, most of the citizens of Brixton regard Annie with suspicion at best.
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed. Jessica was an adulterer and her last moments with her killer, Wayne, has her being an asshole to him, but she still didn't deserved to be murdered in such a horrendous way.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Wayne assaults Annie violently when she learns that he killed his fiancée Jessica King. Annie is on the receiving end of a head injury after being hit with a heavy flashlight, but all she has to show for it is a trickle of blood down her face.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Buddy is so kind and loyal to Annie because the latter has treated him with more kindness and compassion than many of the townsfolk have.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The real killer, Wayne, is caught. Annie learns that Buddy killed himself but she did have one last conversation with his spirit, who appeared at peace. It's unknown what became of Donnie and Valerie's marriage. However, Annie takes her boys to their father's grave, implying she's ready to move on.
  • Blessed with Suck: Annie can see the future. Shame the future is filled with horrors.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Buddy does this in the most extreme way imaginable — he sets his father in flames because the latter sexually abused him and also angrily yells at his mother for knowing about the abuse but not stopping it.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Annie is prone to this, usually after she’s Dreaming of Things to Come.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The f word gets thrown around plenty by various characters.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Ben is named after his deceased father.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ben Sr. to his and Annie's sons, as he's already dead by the beginning.
  • Domestic Abuse: Donnie does not treat Valerie well at all.
  • Driven to Suicide: To Annie’s horror, Buddy committed suicide at a mental hospital.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Donnie is the only obviously villainous character in the story. When it turns out he's not the killer, you know this is going to happen.
  • Fall Guy: Wayne frames Donnie for Jessica’s murder.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early into Jessica’s disappearance, Annie has a vision of a pond with white lilies growing nearby which is where Jessica was found dead. Lilies, especially white ones, are often a symbol of death and are often displayed at funerals.
    • Buddy, while protecting Miller from Donnie, frantically yells at the latter older man to pull the gun at his head and kill him. Near the end, Annie learns that Buddy killed himself.
  • Happily Married: Annie and Ben Senior were this before he died.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Mr. King suffers from one after Jessica’s body was retrieved from Donnie’s pond.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Annie has these, as do her children.
  • In the Blood: According to Annie’s grandmother, her psychic abilities run in the family.
  • Ironic Echo: Used to great effect a couple of times.
    • "Donnie's not crazy enough to kill anybody."
    • "She didn't like it when I killed her."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Donnie is not a saint. He's an abusive husband, threatens women and children, and is all around jerk. However, he turns out to be right about him being set up for Jessica's murder.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Annie’s full name is actually Annabelle but she never uses it.
  • The Lost Lenore: Annie is still grieving her husband's death, especially because of the guilt she feels for not having prevent it sooner.
  • Magic Realism: The film is quite realistic, if we do not take into account the visions of the main heroine and The Reveal.
  • Mama Bear: Annie threatens to kill Donnie if he threatened her boys.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Abusive cheater Donnie is played by amiable Keanu Reeves.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Averted, though subtly implied. Annie goes on a rant about how the entire situation is the exact opposite of fun when accused of enjoying the theatrical trial, of which she has been made the main attraction. That same trial asked her to read the defense attorney's mind, but she can't.
  • Monochrome Casting: Pretty much everyone who appears on screen is white. The setting is a small, rural town in the Deep South, so it doesn't strain credulity too hard.
  • Odd Name Out: Of Annie’s children: Mike, Miller, and Ben, Ben is the only one of his siblings who doesn’t have an “M” name.
  • Only Friend: Buddy specifically refers to Annie as this to him.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Mr. King outlives his daughter Jessica after she’s brutally murdered. It also doubles as a tearjerker because there’s no mention of her mother and she’s implied to be an only child.
  • Papa Wolf: Mr. King went to great lengths to find his daughter when she went missing.
  • Parents as People: Annie won’t let her oldest son, Mike, go to counseling to process his fathers death after Wayne suggests it. When Mike tries to bring him up in conversation, Annie clams up and won’t hear a word of it. She does take him and his brothers to visit their fathers grave though.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. The police are adept at solving Jessica’s disappearance (albeit with Annie’s help), but when Donnie breaks into Annie’s home and vandalizes the inside, the authorities barely do a thing.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Donnie is not only an abusive husband but also anti-semitic and racist.
  • Posthumous Character: Annie’s husband Ben Wilson Senior has died one year prior to the events of the movie.
  • Rape as Backstory: Buddy was sexually abused by his father.
  • Red Herring: Donnie, an abusive husband and racist, turns out to be this.
  • Really Gets Around: Donnie. Also Jessica.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sheriff Pearl Johnson is skeptical of Annie’s abilities, but he does admit that she was a big help solving Jessica King’s disappearance.
  • Shown Their Work: In preparation for her role as Annie, Cate Blanchett visited five different psychics in one week. Keanu Reeves and Hilary Swank (who play Donnie and Valerie respectively) also visited local abuse counselors to better understand why men abuse their wives and why women stay with abusive spouses.
  • Southern Gothic: Takes place in Brixton, Georgia.
  • Struggling Single Mother: A downplayed version. Annie makes a nice income and has some help looking after her sons, but is still grieving their father's death and must deal with her eldest son acting out.
  • Sweet Tooth: A brief scene shows Ben as this, having eaten the chocolate frosting Annie was planning to use for a cake.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Annie.
  • Uptown Girl: Jessica King was this for her fiancé.
  • Useless Bystander Parent: Buddy calls out his mother for not stopping the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his father despite being aware of it.
  • Villain Has a Point: Wayne may been Jessica's murderer and framed Donnie, but he wasn't wrong in his suggestion that Annie get her son counseling, as he's clearly going through trauma over his father's death.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Jessica’s real killer was identified, there’s no mention if Donnie was declared innocent of murder and released from jail or if he was kept in jail for domestic abuse.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Donnie had given Annie nothing but grief — harassing both her and her sons as well as being a jerk in general. So, when she discovers that he's not Jessica's killer, she decides to find out who the real killer is. She makes no secret of her dislike of the man, but also can't let an innocent man be imprisoned.
  • Widow Witch: Annie is a widow and suspected of being a witch by half the town.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Wayne is revealed to be Jessica’s killer, but prior to Annie learning the truth he plays the role of the grieving fiancé well.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Donnie will hit his wife, Annie in the stomach, or his girlfriend.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Donnie is not above threatening children.