Starring Joel Edgerton, Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall,
This isn’t a remake of the 2000 Sam Rami/Cate Blanchett film, it’s actually an original screenplay by Aussie actor turned director Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby). Edgerton has been around since Star Wars: Episode II but didn’t really catch the public eye until the Oscar nominated Australian crime film Animal Kingdom in 2010. His biggest role to date was bald Ramses in last year’s Exodus: Gods & Kings flop. The Gift is impressive for many reasons, mostly due to the seriousness and familiarity with subjects like that person you don’t know how to say no to or for many of us childhood bullying. There is an unpredictable air in every scene, rarely giving the audience clues to what might happen next which makes this an edgy and suspenseful thriller.
Upon moving to a new house in the hills, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) begin their new life in Southern California. New job, new house, trying to start a family, only to run into one of Simon’s grade school classmates. Gordon (Edgerton) or “Gordo the Weirdo” as Simon refers to him in private, begins stopping by their house, leaving gifts, and making the couple feel uncomfortable after an awkward dinner. Simon quickly labels Gordon delusional, while Robyn has sympathy for him, defending his unusual behavior to social awkwardness. As the visits persist and extend beyond simple gracious behavior, Robyn discovers something tragic occurred between her husband and Gordon that no one wants to talk about.
There is an unpredictable air in every scene, rarely giving the audience clues to what might happen next which makes this an edgy and suspenseful thriller.
Relatability can often be the difference between a good film and a forgettable one. Edgerton seems to have a great understanding of the type of lingering individual we have all encountered at some point. Someone who invites themselves, shows up unannounced, wears out their welcome or tests your patience for pleasantness. Gordon is all these things, yet Edgerton plays him with a soft kindness that always puts some sympathy on his side. The more Gordon talks, the stranger he becomes, yet the more we discover about Simon the less he seems like an ideal husband and the audience is constantly in flux on who is really the threat. Even Robyn’s sanity comes into question at one point.
The Gift isn’t a horror film, that would be mislabeling, but Edgerton understands that audiences like to be scared and there are certainly thrills here for all your senses. The information both Robyn and the audiences seeks is revealed slowly to draw out the suspense, we learn everything from her point of view. There are a few character traits that make the film seem a little bit unbelievable but I can’t point those out without spoiling things. The final plot twist was the real surprise for me and well planned, but the way the film actually ends might leave some viewers without a strong sense of closure. I hope viewers realize how smart and savvy this thriller is compared to most that just insult intelligence.
Joel Edgerton proves to be equally impressive behind the camera delivering a smart-suspenseful thriller.