Review: The Gift
Security company executive Jason Bateman and his wife Rebecca Hall move to a new state and a new home. One day they’re shopping and run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who remembers Bateman from high school, though Bateman is slow to connect the dots. It’s not long before Gordo keeps inviting himself over to their house (despite never having been given their address!), frequently leaving little gifts for the couple, so they will feel compelled to allow his continued presence in their lives. However, after a rather weird dinner at socially awkward Gordo’s house, Bateman’s very thin veneer of politeness has pretty much worn off. He makes it very clear that they are not friends and he wants Gordo out of their lives. However, Hall (who we learn is emotionally fragile) starts to uncover things about the nature of her husband’s connection to Gordo back in high school which starts to put a different spin on things. Meanwhile, the family dog goes missing and the fish Gordo bought the couple get poisoned. Wendell Pierce turns up as a cop whom Bateman and Hall turn to when Gordo’s behaviour gets real creepy.
No, not the Sam Raimi one where Keanu Reeves gave an actual performance and Katie Holmes showed us her tits. This is the 2015 one that marked Aussie actor Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut. He also scripted and co-stars in what is essentially a domestic disturbance thriller for 90% of its length, and really does seem like something better left behind in the early 90s. The lovely Rebecca Hall (whose American accent is getting a lot better) and particularly an impressively jerky Jason Bateman give solid turns, but for most of its length this is a clichéd affair in which Hall (who is quite simply one of the most beautiful women on the planet, and a damn good actress) seems to be playing an extremely naïve person that one just can’t relate to. Add to that a just OK, unthreatening performance by Edgerton himself and I just wasn’t enjoying this at all. How the hell did this end up getting (as of July 2016) 92% at RottenTomatoes when it’s so incredibly old-hat?
I found it particularly ridiculous just how long it takes for Bateman to do something about Gordo’s involvement in their lives. The guy’s not even remotely subtle in his nuttiness, and Bateman’s inaction is truly frustrating (Mind you, I did like how Gordo kept finding ways back into their lives, mainly because they’re both such weak pussies, so I guess you can’t have one without the other). But then…some relatively interesting things began to creep into the film. The Hall character has some issues that somewhat explain her character as not actually being naïve, merely one of those wonderful people that I’m sure we all know who go out of their way to be incredibly nice and trusting of people, even though (and perhaps because) they have something broken inside of them. Also, the eventual revelations about the Bateman character are really, really interesting. BUT, and it’s such a big but that I’m indeed using ‘caps’ instead of italics for emphasis, a domestic disturbance/revenge thriller is the absolute 110% wrong subgenre to deal with the issues the film brings up. The basic issue at hand here is one that is personally very important to me and I have very strong views about it. The way things pan out, yes it paints the appropriate person in a poor light, but the manner in which the film does so makes another character come across as even more of a villain, and as far as I’m concerned that’s just not cool. They should not have used this very important social issue for the purposes of cheapjack psycho-thriller stuff because it ultimately sends a pretty foul message. ***** SPOILER ALERT ****** The film delivers one helluva twist, but it’s at the expense of making the bully into a potential hero, and the bullying victim into a psycho who may or may not also be a rapist (A paternity test will determine who the father is, but it won’t prove whether rape occurred!). I simply can’t abide by that, it’s foul. ***** END SPOILER ***** So even when the film starts to get slightly interesting, it still doesn’t work.
No, this just isn’t good at all. It’s an occasionally very well acted, but tired, mostly uninspired affair that takes a very serious issue and deals with it in an inappropriate manner. Not a fan, Joel. Maybe next time.