Beauty and the Best

Joel Edgerton

"The Gift" is One Of The Best of 2015

The Gift 1
The Gift is one of the best, if not the best, movies I’ve seen in 2015. But it’s for adults. Those seeking car chases and gratuitous violence need not apply. What writer/director Joel Edgerton has really done is take what could have been a ho-hum Lifetime melodrama and turned it into a thoughtful and unexpected tale of sins from the past coming back to haunt someone. Everyone in the theater has been, will be, or currently is either a Simon or a Gordo, and that’s what really hits home midway through the movie.

The film centers on Justin Bateman’s character Simon and his wife, Robyn, played quite well by Rebecca Hall. They’ve recently relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles for Simon’s big job at a security firm. They’ve made attempts at starting a family, but it hasn’t been successful and that’s taken a toll on their relationship. It’s also revealed that Robyn might have been abusing prescription drugs to dull the pain of infertility and a dubious career. Simon, on the other hand, is an ambitious winner and he’s so good at it, he makes it look effortless.

Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, the couple “run into” Gordo at some Pottery Barn type store. Something seems slightly off about Gordo from the beginning – a stare that’s a little too intense, awkward pauses when he speaks, the gait/posture a broken person. As the trailers reveal, Gordo insinuates himself back into Simon’s life (they went
to high school together). Gordo and Robyn form a bond of sorts, perhaps due to the fact that they both understand trying to live down big mistakes in life. But Simon is immediately uneasy with Gordo’s reappearance, for reasons later explained. A few uncomfortable dinners ensue but things unravel fast. Apparently, Gordo’s life hasn’t turned out nearly as well as Simon’s, for reasons that may or may not have to do with Simon.

And that’s the beauty of The Gift. You really don’t know until about two thirds of the way into the film who’s the villain or the good guy in this movie. Lifetime would’ve made sure those lines were clearly drawn early on, and that’s why it would’ve been fun, but ultimately dreck. Edgerton is more concerned with nuance, and he picked just the cast to convey that, starting with himself as the awkward and spooky Gordo. No one is overplaying anything here. Even Bateman has toned down his typical snarky-yet-likable persona into something more mature and measured. Rebecca Hall is great as the vulnerable wife who followed her evolutionary instincts to marry a winner, but might have deliberately ignored some of Simon’s less pleasant qualities. Gordo’s entry into their life assures she will no longer be able to look away.

There are only a few real scares in The Gift, and even they are kind of fake outs, but they’re also extremely effective. The writing is top notch (watch out for Bateman’s speech about the winners and losers in life) as is the directing. I give this one my highest recommendation.

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