Movie Review: The Gift (2015)

Posted: February 6, 2016 in horror
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the gift

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move to a new town from Chicago to reinvigorate their marriage.  The two have just lost a child and Simon thinks that moving closer to his childhood home will give them a chance to start fresh.  One day, while furniture shopping Simon meets Gordon, (Joel Edgerton) an acquaintance from high school. Simon calls Gordon “Gordo” and everything seems pleasant enough.  Despite the pleasantries, there’s an undertone of tension between Simon and Gordon. After the initial meeting, Gordon proceeds to get Simon and Robyn small housewarming gifts, like a bottle of wine and some koi for Simon and Robyn’s koi pond. Immediately, Simon is suspicious of Gordo’s intentions, but at Robyn’s insistence, they go to Gordo’s house, and after a tense attempt at a  dinner party, Simon tells Gordo that he doesn’t want him to visit them anymore.  The next morning, Robyn wakes up and finds the Koi dead, and their dog missing.  Simon goes back to Gordo’s house, only to find that Gordo’s home belongs to someone else, and Gordo is nothing but a driver for a rich couple.  Who is Gordon?  What happened in high school between Simon and Gordon?

This movie aspires to be Hitchcock, and there’s a certain amount of suspense that builds throughout the first half of the film.  What makes the film interesting is that it seems to be told from Robyn’s perspective and not Simon or Gordon’s perspective.   But writer Joel Edgerton (who also directs, produces and stars) telegraphs his punches too often, so by the time the reveal is rolled out, it’s none too shocking, and the last 15 minutes this unconventional thriller becomes quite conventional indeed.  There was a better way to resolve this film, but Edgerton went for the creepy horror ending instead. And unlike Hitchcock, there is not one iconic scene like in Psycho, The Birds or Rear Window.

Jason Bateman gives a great performance in this film, in the beginning the audience thinks he’s one kind of person, and he ends up another.  This performance proves how versatile an actor he is.  His performance turns on a dime, and that’s what makes it so thought-provoking Rebecca Hall is also effective as a woman who questions her own sanity, and is sympathetic to Gordo’s trials and tribulations. If anything Joel Edgerton plays up the oddness of Gordo, in both script and performance, and that hurts the film in my opinion.

The direction is ok.  Edgerton gets great performances from Jason Bateman, and Rebecca Hall, and he uses some techniques in the opening shots that make the film seem claustrophobic.  But after that, there’s very little that’s visual about the film.  The pacing also lags a bit in the middle of the film, which accentuates the length of the film, and not in a good way.  The film is too long.

The Gift:  Return it.

 

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