This was an interesting weekend at the movies. We got an awful film (“Fantastic Four”) and an OK one (“Ricki and the Flash”), so I guess it makes sense than we are rewarded with our perseverance with an actual good movie.
“The Gift” is a psychological thriller written, directed, and starring Joel Edgerton, and follows a couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) that has recently moved from Chicago to the Los Angeles suburbs. When Gordo (Edgerton), an old classmate from school, begins to continuously stop by their house and leave them gifts (I know, right? The title makes sense now!), they realize the past may be catching up to them.
I have to be honest: when I saw this trailer, cast and release date, I thought this film was going to be a train wreck. It looked massively conventional, and no offense to Bateman but I couldn’t see him carrying a dark, non-comedic film like this. Plus it’s no secret that August is one of Hollywood’s two dumping grounds for subpar films (see: “Fantastic Four”), so I was just ready for a stupid summer “horror” film. But I was pretty wrong, because “The Gift” is a well-executed and smart psycho-thriller, and I have to give both Edgerton and Bateman props: they turn in killer performances.
I like Jason Bateman, I’m a big fan of his deadpan comedy, but like I said, I was shocked how good he is in this film. He completely surprised me here playing a man who is harboring secrets and emotions, and while he has one or two moments of straight-faced delivery that produced a chuckle, he fully dedicates himself to the role of a broken man.
Meanwhile Joel Edgerton, who we last saw putting audiences to sleep while wearing mascara in “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” excels in every part of the film he had a part in. Whether it is his chilling performance as Gordo, his steady work behind the camera, or his smart script, Edgerton’s passion project really makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable while watching, which is exactly what it is going for. You don’t know if you can believe what Gordo tells Bateman and Hall, nor what his motivations are or the extents he is willing to go.
The film features several twists, none of which really floored me (some are foreshadowed, others are easily guessable based on the genre), but the film’s sense of tension and the uneasy feeling it gives both you and the characters is near masterful.
There are some slow parts that never really lead to a payoff, and then once the film reaches its climax it kind of just ends, but just like with “Foxcatcher” I wasn’t too bothered by these things because the performances and the feeling that we’re building towards an explosion had me too invested to care.
“The Gift” is a very well-acted and well-directed film, and it may make you start to question your relationships with the people around you now, as well as those from your past. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but in a summer of big-budget sequels and animated creatures, it is nice to see something be small and effective. I guess you could say “The Gift” is a real, come on and say it with me, effective and rewarding thriller.
Critics Rating: 7/10