Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By WWNY TV 7 Craig Thornton
FCE Contributing Writer 

The Gift - Movie Review

 

Last updated 8/30/2015 at 6:58pm | View PDF

The Gift

This slow cooking, expertly crafted thriller is a predator that silently stalks the audience. When it pounces it's deeply satisfying.

Jason Bateman (Simon) and Rebecca Hall (Robyn) are a seemingly happily married affluent couple who move to Los Angeles for Simon's new high powered corporate executive job. Their new house in the hills is a mid-century one story with great views and big glass windows in every room. It is like living in a big fish bowl or to coin another phrase, "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Very early in the film, Simon and Robyn, while shopping run into Gordon (Gordo) (played by writer/director Joel Edgarton.) Simon has trouble recalling Gordon at first but then remembers they went to high school together some twenty-five years ago. Gordo insinuates himself in the couples' life, by mysteriously dropping off gifts, and visiting unannounced. He just creepily appears on the walkway, visible through a window, approaching their front door. Although Gordo's attentions seem earnest and he is all too willing to lend a helping hand, there is something decidedly odd about him and his desire to be best friends with the couple. When Alpha male Simon decides the friendship must end and assertively confronts Gordon and Gordon does seem to disappear, the real mystery and conflict begins.

Emotional stakes quickly increase in the second third of the film, as Robyn's emotional state grows more fragile and Simon, always ambitious and successful focuses on getting a big promotion. Robyn senses the experience of Gordon and what he really wanted isn't over and as she begins to investigate further she learns too much about the real relationship of the men and an incident from their past. As well she slowly discovers just who she is married to.

Robyn becomes the eyes for the audience as she tries to discern the victim from villain, a dilemma that is never obvious, but remains ambiguous throughout. Edgarton's screenplay is so skillful that you will not see the twists coming and information is revealed so subtly, that you find yourself constantly being led enthusiastically down a path that you never knew existed. However, the film never lapses into over the top thriller violence or ludicrous plot twists.

Batemen has never been better. This film proves that he has subtleties, layers and a bad boy under the boy next door sit com exterior. Clearly he can play dramatic subtext as easily as he plays perfect timing in comedy. This is perhaps why he continues to always get work. He needs to stop being underrated. I wasn't crazy for Rebecca Hall at first, as I felt she was a bit stoic and her asymmetrical haircut and porcelain skin were distracting. But as her paranoia, confusion and fear escalate and we experience these through her, she grew amazingly likeable.

Edgarton's Gordo is never over the top and he rides the lines of ambiguity between creepiness and likeability. Edgarton pulls off an amazing hat trick as director, writer and star and all cast and crew members should be commended for this intelligent, disturbing, Cracker Jack psychological thriller. Highly original and never gimmicky, see The Gift and be drawn into this disturbing revenge story that does great justice to its genre and is perhaps the biggest anti-bullying movie of the year.

 

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