The Gift Review: It’s Better to Give Than to Receive
It’s always nice to receive a gift…or is it? The new psychological thriller The Gift explores the way in which mistakes and transgressions from the past can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. The film stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and writer/director Joel Edgerton (in his big screen directorial debut). The film bucks the trend of relying on typical horror film clichés such as bombarding viewers with lots of blood and gore and instead strives to create a cinematic atmosphere brimming with creepiness and a mounting sense of dread and foreboding.
When The Gift opens Simon and Robyn, a young successful couple, (played by Bateman and Hall) are depicted beginning a new and exciting phase of their lives. After Simon accepts a prestigious job offer in California the couple pull up stakes and relocate to the west coast where they take up residence in a modern home in the suburbs. Soon after arriving in Los Angeles Simon inadvertently runs into Gordon (Edgerton) a mysterious former high school classmate from his past. Although from their initial meeting there seems to be something a little off about Gordon Simon and Robyn reluctantly accept his housewarming gifts and even spend time socializing together. Before long, however, the awkward relationship between the three characters becomes strained eventually culminating in Simon rebuffing Gordon’s attempts to forge a friendship and “let bygones be bygones.” From this point onward The Gift takes a number of interesting plot twists and turns designed to leave film goers on the edge of their seats and wondering just what will happen next. Viewers will find themselves pondering the true nature of Simon and Gordon’s high school experiences as well as Gordon’s emotional state and true intentions.
At the core of The Gift is the question of whether or not people ever really change. If someone was a bully in high school are they destined to always be a bully? At one point in the movie Gordon reflects back on his troubled past and remarks that, “bad things can be a gift.” Simon agrees with this assertion and time after time is portrayed as refusing to take responsibility for the pain he caused Gordon while in high school. Furthermore, when his wife discusses the issue of childhood bullying and says that, “kids are mean,” Simon responses with, “kids are honest.” It’s obvious that this character has no insight into the long lasting consequences of his actions. In his opinion Gordon’s present day problems stem solely from his own personal weaknesses rather than any past traumas he might have suffered. Later on in the movie Simon dismisses his mistreatment of Gordon in years past by stating his belief that time heals wounds.
One of the main themes of The Gift is how the past can influence the present. Although this same theme was explored on a deeper and more effective level in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film Magnolia The Gift manages to not only get this point across by also do it in an entertaining and suspenseful way.
The Gift is a welcome surprise. It’s an intelligent film which deals with mature themes and complex subject matter. Jason Bateman, who is well known to audiences for his comedic work in the TV show “Arrested Development” as well as roles in flicks such as Couple’s Retreat (2009), Horrible Bosses (2011), and The Change- Up (2011), takes a radical turn in The Gift by portraying a flawed yet realistic character with skeletons in his closet, a determined will to succeed, and a mean streak. In The Gift the actor proves that he has the ability to excel in both comedic as well as dramatic roles.
The Gift delivers thrills, chills, and makes for a worthwhile summer respite suited to give audiences an excuse to get out of the sun and enter into the ominous darkness of the movie theatre.
The Gift is in theatres now.