The Gift

Directed by:  Joel Edgerton

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Wendell Pierce, and Busy Philipps

Billed as this generation’s Fatal Attraction, The Gift opened this weekend to rave reviews.  While the film does pack a few surprises for audiences, the movie does not live up to expectations. The Gift serves as more of a public service announcement than a psychological thriller.

Simon (Jason Bateman) has a high powered new position in a security/technology company.  He recently moved from Chicago to California with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall).  The couple previously tried to have a child and when tragedy struck, Robyn struggled with depression and other issues.  The move to California is a fresh new start for the couple.

While they are shopping for furniture for their new home, Simon and Robyn run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton).  Gordo and Simon went to high school together, and Gordo is eager to reconnect.  He gives Robyn and Simon his phone number, but Simon is dismissive. Soon thereafter, Robyn comes home and finds a gift of wine on their doorstep.  Gordo somehow found their address and left the couple a housewarming gift.  Gradually, Gordo tries to insinuate himself into their lives with gifts and pop-ins.  Robyn feels sympathy for him.  She finds Gordo to be socially awkward, but ultimately harmless.  Simon, on the other hand, feels that Gordo is still the little weirdo from high school.  

Written and directed by star Joel Edgerton, The Gift has some interesting twists and turns.  As an audience member, you think the story is going somewhere, but Edgerton takes you in a completely different direction. He is fairly adept at building suspense and setting a genuinely creepy tone.   Moreover, the subject matter of this film feels like a different angle on the traditional psychological thriller.  Jason Bateman also delivers a layered performance and is intriguing to watch as the film’s narrative plays out. Although Bateman has given great comedic turns in everything from Horrible Bosses to Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, he should consider taking on more dramatic roles.  

Despite its favorable reviews, The Gift fell short for me.  As an initial matter, the characters’ behavior is frustrating.  Gordo is intrusive and creepy from the outset.  He finds the couple’s address; he leaves gifts on the door; he randomly shows up at the house; and even goes so far as to create a pond and fill it with large aquatic fish outside of their house (while the couple is out for the day).  Yet, Robyn feels sympathy for him and is not concerned by his behavior.  On the one hand, it could be that she connects with his sadness and loneliness because of her own feelings and recent loss.  However, it is inexplicable that common sense would not prevail here and she would not show more concern about a stranger oddly fixating on her and her husband.  It was quite baffling and frustrating for me as a viewer.

Additionally, the film drags after an hour.  There is not a great deal of action or heat.  Instead of being a fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller, The Gift is tedious, and at times feels stagnant (i.e. a considerable amount of time is spent showing Rebecca Hall jog or brush her teeth). While the end of the film is unique and different from the typical violent thriller end, the ride is a little too bumpy.  

The Gift
earns a 0.09% rating.  Have a Norma Jean (strawberry vodka lemonade) with this one.