The Gift (2015)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Joel Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton
Produced by: Jason Blum, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Yeldham.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall, Allison Tolman.
People that you knew in high school seem weirder as you get older. This coming generation doesn’t have the advantage of not dealing with them like the generation before it did, with Facebook and Twitter you can now be more connected than ever. This would be really bad news for Simon, the male lead of THE GIFT; the new thriller from Joel Edgerton, who also writes and stars in the movie. It is a remarkable balancing act, even if it’s not without its flaws.
Simon and Robin (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) move to Simon’s old hometown from Chicago. One of Simon’s old classmates, Gordo (Joel Edgerton) runs into them and something seems off about this guy from the get go. He’s awkward and he gets caught in several lies. It is soon revealed that Simon himself may not be the most trustworthy sort either.
I liked how this movie continually kept me on edge. Edgerton’s script convinces you that anything can happen, and that no one is to be trusted. Simon and Gordo eventually get caught in a game of one-upsmanship that has dire consequences. This film is one of the most striking indictments of masculinity I’ve seen in a while. The movie explores what it means to use your past as a tool to manipulate, and it asks whether or not people ever truly change.
There’s not a lot I can spoil. There’s not a lot I want to spoil. Some are divided on THE GIFT’s twists, but I thoroughly enjoyed most all of them. The film kept on the edge of my seat due to Edgerton’s stellar direction and script. There’s a chance they may not work for some who go to see them, I am obligated to warn you of that.
Edgerton pulls a trick high-wire act in that he balances the duties of director, writer, and lead with gravitas and power. His direction echoes the best work of Hitchcock, finding horror in some of the most basic aspects of suburbia. Edgerton has no problem taking his time to establish atmosphere. The film is paced slowly and meticulously, taking its time to set up scares and twists while paying off others. In the end though, the acting is what sold THE GIFT. Edgerton looks completely different from other movies I’ve seen him in, he has a certain aspect to his performance that carries a very unsettling air. He channels that, and at the same time he can seem like a total puppy dog, injecting just enough doubt into the viewer to remain on edge.
Jason Bateman is phenomenal in this movie. I have been a fan for a long time, I think Bateman is one of the best comedic actors working right now. He proves the old adage that comedians can get dark for the right role. Oh, boy is he intense in this. His Simon is a conniving jerk that has no problem bending the rules to get what he wants, Bateman’s presence commands much with very little. He plays Simon as a typical suburban patriarch and puts quite a bit of bite into the character. Rebecca Hall is also very good, it’s nice to see her in a movie that deserves her after the disaster that was TRANSCENDENCE. She has a certain warmth that makes her easy to like as the pawn caught in the power play between these two men.
THE GIFT is a worthwhile sit. The trailer may seem like its giving aspects of the movie away, but it isn’t. This is a dark, atmospheric, and clever movie from a guy who nobody would have guessed could shoulder directoral duties with relative ease. There are a few jump scares that I thought were cheap for the kind of movie it was trying to be, but for the most part it’s a strong recommendation.