The Gift, 2015.
Written and Directed by Joel Edgerton.
Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, David Denham, Busy Philipps, Alison Tolman, Katie Aselton, Beau Knapp and Wendell Pierce.
A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.
Joel Edgerton makes his directorial debut with The Gift (alongside writing and starring in the film), which is easily the surprise hit of the summer. What easily could have been a formulaic thriller regarding a mentally unstable friend from the past creepily stalking a couple, is actually a much more sinister and unnerving tale interested in exploring three dynamic characters that not only feel grounded and real, but are used as vessels to promote some provocative discussion on morality, bullying, and trust.
This isn’t the clear-cut narrative that the trailer suggests, even though the first 30 minutes of the movie come across as entirely generic leaving you waiting for what would happen in most stories of this kind. Instead The Gift shifts into some unexpectedly dark territory while restraining itself from devolving into a slasher film with a helpless wife and husband to the rescue. Without spoiling anything, this movie has no true antagonist but rather ugly personalities all around.
Jason Bateman often plays characters that talk back with a smart-ass attitude, something that he has excelled at during comedies, but also what Edgerton exploits during heated marital arguments to create a workaholic husband that simply isn’t the perfect guy he appears to be on the surface. It also helps that Jason Bateman is a severely underrated dramatic actor and absolutely crushes every single serious role he is given. And as the stalking, gifts, and socially awkward presence of Gordon (a high school friend of Simon’s seemingly hung up on the past) continues to pile up, Bateman ever so slowly begins to unleash a very unsettling rage showcasing his character’s true colors.
Credit also goes to Rebecca Hall who turns in a fine performance; she’s extremely trusting and finds Gordon to be a generous man, while slowly coming to the realization that Simon’s indecipherable hatred for a former friend of his all points to him not just hiding secrets from his wife, but an entirely different personality that has been locked away until the reemergence of this high school buddy.
Admittedly, most moviegoers will be able to predict where The Gift is headed on a scene by scene basis, and a decent amount will also be able to place the big twist, but that’s all easily forgiven because the execution is so damn good. It’s all about the characters and how the events affect the lives of each individual. In addition to leaving the auditorium discussing the extreme yet ambiguous finale, viewers will also be chatting about the morality of everything in this film.
That’s a very broad generalization, but you really shouldn’t know more going into the movie. The Gift is superbly acted with a twisted psychological story that embraces predictability to explore the human mind and what triggers people to set foot on the path they find themselves on. It’s also nice to see Blumhouse financially supporting more than spooky ghost stories and found footage nonsense; The Gift is by leaps and bounds the studio’s deepest and smartest film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook