Plot Holes: The Gift

(Plot Holes is an occasional feature that points out narrative flaws in the movies. Full disclosure: Sometimes it gives away crucial plot points.)

Here’s a bit of personal-safety advice I gleaned this weekend from The Gift, the new psychothriller directed by Sam Raimi: If you have reason to believe that the town lunatic is lurking outside your house, don’t shut and lock your front door. And whatever you do, don’t call the police. Instead, walk out onto the porch and peer around in the dark, allowing whoever might be out there to creep up silently and scare the bejeesus out of you.

Raimi is a gifted director who’s turned out smart movies like A Simple Plan and the Evil Dead series. ( Darkman and For Love of the Game should be regarded as the work of his much less talented evil twin.) The star of The Gift, Cate Blanchett, is a heady actress with a talent for accents who’s being touted as the next Meryl Streep. But between them and co-screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton, they have made a pretty dumb movie with a remarkably leaky plot.

Blanchett plays a young Southern widow in a small town who supports her three kids by giving psychic readings. After the local floozy disappears, Blanchett has blurry visions of the young girl murdered–but can’t quite see whodunit. (Second warning: Plot spoilers ahead.) Eventually, acting on one of her dreams, the authorities dredge up the poor girl from the bottom of a pond that belongs to Keanu Reeves.

Naturally, when Blanchett testifies at Reeves’ murder trial, his wily lawyer viciously ridicules her supposed psychic powers. And once she’s testified, she stays at home to recover from this withering ordeal, right? Not at all–instead she returns to witness Reeves’ own court testimony, giving him the opportunity for another public screed about what a Satan-worshipping witch she is.

Later, when Blanchett starts to have second thoughts about whether he’s the real killer, she goes to the local prosecutor, hoping to get the case reopened. Now, earlier in the movie, she sees the prosecutor having a bit of closet sex with the victim, right before she’s murdered. This should make him a suspect too–at least to everyone except our heroine, who blithely reveals everything she knows and then tries to blackmail him.

One thing that you can say for The Gift’s plot holes: They’re remarkably consistent. When a character’s son ties her abusive husband to a chair, beats him savagely with a belt, and douses him with gasoline, she doesn’t call the cops. She calls the town psychic.

Still from The Gift by Melissa Mosley © 2000 Paramount Classics. All rights reserved.