THE GIFT (2015)
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Simon Callum (Jason Bateman) is living a charmed life. He has a successful career and has just moved into a upscale suburban house with his beautiful wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). A chance meeting with Gordon Moseley (Joel Edgerton who also wrote and directs), a former classmate from high school, changes his idyllic existence as Moseley starts making uninvited stops at Simon’s house, especially when Robyn is home alone. As Simon fears the man is obsessed with his wife, he finds another game may be afoot and one whose revelations Simon may not like. What does Gordon know and what is Simon hiding?
A very impressive debut from actor Joel Edgerton as both writer and director as he creates a tense thriller that fools you into thinking you’re watching one type of story, but it turns into another. At first we think we are watching yet another Cape Fear scenario with straightedge Simon and Robyn being stalked by the strange “Gordo”, but Edgerton has some surprises up his sleeve and we get revelations uncovered that may change our perspective on the true nature of our characters. His script gradually unravels a far more complicated story, as Robyn begins to ask questions as to just what the relationship was between the two men in the past and what happened between them. She finds that neither man may be who she thought they were and neither has been telling the complete truth. Edgerton skillfully takes us on the investigation and we learn the shocking truths as she does. This is far more than a simple creepy stalker plot and to reveal any more would be to spoil a tense and suspenseful thriller that subtly pulls the rug out from underneath you as to what you know about our players. You may find your sympathies shifting once all is said and done…or will you? It’s a very offbeat thriller from the first-time director.
Our small cast is very good. Jason Bateman is strong in a non-comedy role as an ambitious man who has it all. His Simon is likable at first, but as our script slowly let’s secrets become uncovered, Bateman handles the character changes deftly and we respond appropriately. Rebecca Hall is good as Robyn. She is a supportive wife, but as the movie progresses she becomes a woman with many doubts and questions and possibly some demons of her own. Edgerton is excellent as the weird and unsettling Gordon. Like Bateman, when character aspects are revealed, Edgerton helps us see his character in a different light, though he always remains purposely a bit off, as Gordon is an emotionally troubled man regardless of what we find out.
I liked this thriller. It had me thinking I was watching something oft seen before, but slowly revealed layers to the story that changed my perspective. Characters are presented as one thing, but as we proceed, deeper secrets are revealed and we realize that we don’t know these people like we thought. There are games and lies being played out here, but it may surprise as to the who and whats in the details. An engaging thriller and a very auspicious debut from Joel Edgerton as writer and director.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) gifts.
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