Film Review: The Gift

Still of Joel Edgerton in "The Gift." (Matt Kennedy/STX Productions, LLC)

Still of Joel Edgerton in “The Gift.” (Matt Kennedy/STX Productions, LLC)

By Bill Stamets

The Gift
written and directed by acted by Joel Edgerton
acted by Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
distributed by STX Entertainment
Shopping for stuff for their new California house, a childless Chicago couple run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton). He knows a lot about Simon (Jason Bateman, “Horrible Bosses 2,” “Horrible Bosses”). Back at Fairmont Park High School Gordo’s nickname was Weirdo, Simon tells his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall, ”Transcendence”). She will learn an awful lot more about her husband and his classmate, and it’s awful. Horrible.

That’s the set-up with no spoilers of “The Gift,” a psychological thriller written by Joel Edgerton, “a long-time fan of intelligent genre films,” say his press notes. Making his directing debut, Edgerton stands out playing Gordo as passive and insistent, apologetic and aggressive, overly kind and underlyingly creepy. In “Exodus: Gods and Kings” Edgerton’s Ramses was far more imposing.

“The Gift” accessorizes the “mid-century modern home,” as the realtor calls it, with two horror-style jolts in the first act, which makes sense when you notice that a co-producer is Jason Blum from “Paranormal Activity.”

Gordo drops clues like “an eye for an eye, I say” and “the bad things, they can be a gift.” Later he will teach Simon: “You’re dealing with the past but the past is not done with you.”

Simon is angling for a promotion as a national division sales rep at his security company. A dirty trickster since he was a teenager, he continues to practice his “winners and losers” tactics at the corporate level.

Robyn had a miscarriage and maybe a breakdown back in Chicago. Her longtime yearning for a baby resides in a psyche now unsettled by Gordo’s unwelcome entry into the couple’s life. By the time a baby comes, Gordo is indelibly implicated in their lives going off the rails.

In “The Gift” Joel Edgerton leads a wife on a tense trail with step-by-step disclosures of one scary fact after another about her husband and his high school classmate with gifts to give. People who treat people badly might feel bad later. Where bad people come from and the bad that comes later. The 2013 film “Honeymoon” by Czech director Jan Hrebejk got this right too.

This originally ran on billstamets.com

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