Review: The Gift
On August 7th, actor Joel Edgerton, alongside Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, made his directorial debut with the psychological thriller The Gift. The film portrays the life of Simon and Robyn Callum (Bateman and Hall), a young married couple who seem to have it all. After relocating to Los Angeles for Simon’s new job, the couple plan to start a family in their dream home.
Out of the blue, Simon runs into an old high school classmate, Gordon “Gordo” Moseley (Edgerton). As Gordo slowly infiltrates the Callums’ idyllic life, he begins to leave them many unwarranted gifts. As they become more frequent, events begin to take a turn for the disturbing until a horrifying 20-year secret is revealed and more than one life is irrevocably changed.
Now, I have always been a massive fan of the horror and psychological thriller genre. So, when my favorite YouTube movie critic, Chris Stuckmann, gave this movie a very favorable review, I was excited to see it. And he was not entirely wrong. This film is a study in subtle horror and mounting tension. With masterful camera angles and sound design, Joel Edgerton reveals his talent for creating true horror without the use of CGI or supernatural elements.
Jason Bateman, who is known mainly for his comedic roles, absolutely lost himself in his role as Simon and definitely gave one of the better performances of his career. Simon is perceived by the audience to be this successful and loving everyman. However, due to small subtleties on Bateman’s part and revelations from the script, the audience’s perception is ultimately changed as they realize that Simon is, in fact, a manipulative bully who has never shied away from crushing the vulnerable to get what he wants, or simply because he can.
Edgerton was also fantastic as Gordo, an unfortunate victim of Simon’s ways who is out for revenge. His awkwardness and social ineptitude contributed to the vulnerability and overall creepiness of his character, making him simultaneously the protagonist and the antagonist. Rebecca Hall, who played Simon’s wife was, in my opinion, a weak point as far as the acting goes. Though I’m sure she is a very capable actress, Hall had issues emoting in certain scenes and was very wooden at times. She is supposed to be playing an already emotionally damaged woman whose life is falling apart around her ears. Hall’s acting conveyed an almost inappropriate calmness in certain scenes where I was expecting more panic and distress.
Another more prominent weak spot is the script, also written by Edgerton. From the opening scene, the dialogue was very awkward and stinted to the point where I felt physically uncomfortable. It did improve as the film progressed, however, and I need to applaud the twist that comes into play near the end of the film. Though it is an extreme scenario, it did not bother me because the film, in addition to being a psychological thriller, is a commentary on bullying and it portrays the very probable “What-if” scenario of a victim striking back against their tormentor, though the actual events seem a bit hyperbolic.
So my final thoughts on this film are as follows: Mainly due to the dialogue and some inconsistent acting, I don’t think The Gift deserves the 93% approval rating that Rotten Tomatoes reports it to have. However, I do recommend this movie to any fans of the psychological thriller/horror genre. Joel Edgerton has clearly demonstrated that he has a talent, not just in the acting field, but in the directing one as well. I look forward to seeing his future projects grace the cinema screens.
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