Review: The Gift

The surprise emergence of a highly talented writer-director. Bravo to Bateman taking on such a tough role.

Let’s ignore the fact that the last time we saw Joel Edgerton it was in EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS as Moses’ foil Ramses or as the colorless Tom Buchanan in THE GREAT GATSBY. (No actor has been able to make Tom Buchanan interesting.)

With THE GIFT, Edgerton does not need any more co-starring roles. He is now a proven screenwriter – and more importantly – a skillful director of a sophisticated, thriller.

There is so much psychological depth in THE GIFT and the crafting of the performances, Edgerton will likely emerge as a major director. You can feel his point-of-view and how in control he was of the entire production.

Chicago couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have just moved to Los Angeles. They have brought a glass-walled home in the hills. Simon is an “A” type personality with a new position in a big firm; once settled, Robyn will re-start her architect business. After losing a pregnancy and slipping into a serious pill habit, Simon thought it best to move back to where he grew up.

Within days they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who claims to have gone to high school with Simon. Gordo is so pleased to re-unite with Simon, but Simon confesses to Robyn he has no idea who Gordo is.

Soon Gordo is turning up at their house during the day with gifts. Robyn invites him to dinner. Simon does not encourage the friendship but Gordo seems clueless to the subtle hints. He keeps leaving gifts on their front door.

I know you have had – or heard about – people like this. It becomes a challenge to them to get you to surrender and see them. They do not give up easily. Now with texts, phones, emails and social media, it is truly impossible to get rid of someone. It takes concentrated work. It’s exhausting.

Simon is the perfect husband. He is devoted to Robyn. He kneels before her and tells her she can take as much time as she wants to do whatever she wants. They have a big dog who is no “best friend” or watchdog. Mr. Bojangles shows no interest in following Robyn around. Mr. Bojangles never learned to be wary of strangers.

Simon is distrustful of Grodo, who does exhibit rather strange behavior. He’s not a potential member of their social circle. Robyn feels sorry for Gordo eliciting a sudden anger in Simon. He wants nothing to do with Gordo but how should he go about stopping Gordo from dropping in on Robyn?

Simon decides to just tell Gordo to leave them alone.

If only it was so easy. Unwanted friends cannot be avoided if you are their prize. If they have something on you, beware. They will use it.

And Gordo does have something on Simon. He implies it in a note he leaves with a gift on their front door. Now Robyn wants to know – especially now – what it is.

While Edgerton does give us a tiny foreshadowing that Simon might have a temper, the question remains: how long can a person keep their real self from a mate?

When do you find out that your Wall Street Ivy League beau likes meth? Or your possible fiancé worked as an escort? What does it say about your boyfriend if he low-balls the tip on an expensive meal? Or your new girlfriend forgets to tell you she has a restraining order against her last boyfriend? What if a friend suddenly flips out on you when his favorite team loses a game? Do you make an excuse for him or drop him?

The way you deal with life is a hard thing to change.

How exactly did Simon win Robyn? I gave them a backstory of their romance that perhaps was too obvious to include but is essential. Robyn was dating a great guy who turned out to be cheating on her. Simon rescued her from making a major mistake and marrying the guy.

Simon has a lot to contend with. He’s worried Robyn’s past depression and dependency on pills has returned, he’s trying to out-maneuver his competition for the big job and now has to deal with the unwelcomed Gordo hanging around.

Robyn is such a good person and Simon is so driven, that you wonder why they are together. Simon shows a spark of anger towards Robyn that should have been a warning earlier on.

Then Robyn does something that is extremely out of character for the role that Edgerton envisioned. This one scene made little sense to me.

Bateman is fantastic. At one point, he had me yelling. This is a role that takes Bateman to another level. He doesn’t need HORRIBLE BOSSES 3 (unless the money is too good to pass up or the contract was for 2 sequels) or a starring role as a coach of a “terrible-twos” soccer team.

Rebecca Hall has the emotional weight perfect for Robyn but what about that awful haircut? I kept trying to get past her “executive-style”, low-maintenance hair.

Of course, as screenwriter, Edgerton knows the character of Gordy well and plays him with cascading psychological tempos.

THE GIFT is a highly enjoyable, first-class thriller.

Member of Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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