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The Gift (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

The Gift

The Gift

THE GIFT (2015)

Starring Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall, Busy Philipps, David Denman, Allison Tolman, Katie Aselton, Susan May Pratt, Wendell Pierce, Beau Knapp, Tim Griffin, Nash Edgerton and P.J. Byrne.

Screenplay by Joel Edgerton.

Directed by Joel Edgerton.

Distributed by STX Entertainment.  108 minutes.  Rated R.

There is one basic truth that has been unquestionably true for many, many generations: there are very few things that can be more hurtful and casually evil than a high school student.  (Except, perhaps, for a middle school student.)  Bullies have been tormenting the weak for as long as anyone can remember and sadly it will not stop anytime in the near future.

However, at what point does one let go of that experience?  Does the bully or the victim let go of the anguish caused and the perceived roles and move on, or do they continue to stew in it, allowing that experience to define not only who they are, but who they become?

There is no one answer to that question, everyone reacts differently.  The Gift connects a thriller structure to that question, showing the alpha male having to deal with the beta trying to muscle in to his territory.

It all starts pretty simply.  Simon (Jason Bateman), a successful corporate exec, has recently moved back to his old hometown outside of LA to take a new job.  When shopping with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) to get furniture for their new modern home, they happen to run into Gordon (Joel Edgerton), an old high school acquaintance.  Simon does not appear to even recognize the guy at first, but Gordon tries awkwardly to befriend the couple.

There is obviously something a bit off about Gordon (among other things, Edgerton’s oddball makeup job makes his own face look like a mask), but he appears to genuinely want nothing more than to welcome them back to the neighborhood and maybe make some new friends.  He’s sad and needy, but is he a threat?

Robyn starts to kind of like the odd little guy, but Simon bristles at the idea of letting Gordon into their life.  Since Simon refuses to discuss their past together, Robyn starts to investigate what had happened in high school, eventually learning that Simon and Gordon’s history was much more diabolical than she would imagine from her husband.  When Simon tells Gordon in no uncertain terms that he does not want the guy in their lives, a series of mysterious “accidents” starts to happen and Robyn starts to feel she is being watched in their house.

Is Gordon taking revenge, or is it just their imagination?

This is a pretty boiler-plate thriller scenario, with the past bullying added as seasoning – a flavor enhancement that is nice though not completely necessary for the story.  Through a plot twist that is openly outed in the film’s trailer, the audience is left unsure throughout whether Gordon or Simon is actually the aggressor causing the problems.

By the time the film reaches its surprise ending – and it is something of a shock, if just vaguely unbelievable – the audience’s, as well as Robyn’s, opinion of both men has changed back and forth several times.  It becomes a mean, hurtful, dirty game that leaves both men reeling.

Still, there is something just a bit pathetic about two men well into their 40s who still are tussling over an old high school grudge, even one that was as extreme as this one appears to have been.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: August 31, 2015.

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