There are so many flaws in "The Gift" that it's a "gift" to writer/director/star Joel Edgerton that it even got made. I mean really --- even the tag line attributed to Edgerton's character, Gordo, "You are done with the past, but the past is not done with you" is horrifyingly ridiculous.
The first boo-boo comes right at the beginning when Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are shopping for their new Southern California home, and Gordo recognizes Simon through the store window. Apparently they went to high school together, but Simon can't seem to place Gordo. Okay, fine, until later in the movie we learn that they actually knew each other very well. So, the entire puzzlement on Simon's part is stupid, even if he was trying to fool his wife.
"The Gift" is full of various ludicrous acts, though, in full disclosure, I did scream at one predictable surprise --- shame on me! It is a thriller, of sorts, with a few tense moments. But most of these can be seen coming, which lessens the impact.
And don't even get me started on the "gifts" --- presents left by Gordo for Simon and Robyn on their doorstep. And why Robyn doesn't think this guy is creepy from the get-go? And how does she not know her husband is a control freak?
Whatever --- "The Gift" is a waste of time and talent. David will plead otherwise, but seriously, look at his track record!
Opinion: Wait For DVD
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple who venture to California for Simon's high-salaried new job. Their first order of business is finding a home, which they accomplish early in "The Gift", unaware of the upheaval their lives will soon face.
As they prepare to settle in to their new environment, Simon is spotted in a store by an old high school acquaintance, Gordo (writer/director Joel Edgerton). But Simon doesn't recognize Gordo right away, or at least that's what he tells Robyn. The two men make perfunctory promises to get together, to which Simon privately sneers, but Gordo takes seriously, so much so that gifts start appearing on the couple's doorstep.
It starts with a bottle of wine and escalates from there. Simon wonders how Gordo got their address, but the mysterious and vaguely threatening Gordo is resourceful. And he has a motive.
"The Gift" is Edgerton's directorial debut, and it's a first-rate psychological thriller. It seizes on the supposition that we may not always know those to whom we are closest. Everyone has secrets, but when those secrets are revealed and threatens one's very existence, it becomes a huge challenge to neutralize the damage.
If Edgerton was a loose cannon in "The Great Gatsby", here his character is a tightly-wound hand grenade, seemingly capable of being more than just a nuisance. Gordo is the unwanted, self-invited guest who doesn't seem to realize he's an imposition. It's a strong performance that provides hints of his character with a skulking look as much as anything he says. When Simon has a heart-to-heart with Gordo, Edgerton's forlorn look, shot through an exterior window, is haunting, almost sympathetic.
Hall has always been one of my favorite actors. She plays Robyn as the overly nice, somewhat naive wife who gradually comes to learn the truth about Simon's past history with Gordo. And it's not pretty.
Bateman is as mesmerizing in this rare dramatic role as he was hilarious in the original "Horrible Bosses". Simon celebrates his promotion with good wine and good friends, but when everything comes to light, his life is in sudden turmoil, and threatens to spiral completely out of control. It's a subtly powerful performance.
"The Gift" is a nail-biter, a movie that appears to present to its audience one cliche after another, but continually surprises us with the unexpected. A really solid suspense film is not the easiest commodity to pull off, but Edgerton, Bateman and Hall have done it in spades.
Opinion: See It Now!