The Best Gift From Blumhouse Since Whiplash
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a happily married couple that have just relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles looking for a fresh start. The couple buys a beautiful home and has a strong desire to start a family in the near future. One day, while out shopping for furniture, a random man named Gordo (Joel Edgerton) approaches Simon and says he knows him. This innocent exchange ultimately results in Gordo showing up to their home and leaving a series of gifts on their door step. At first, the gifts seem like simple kind gestures but after a while there seems to be more to these gifts than meets the eye. This begins a conversation between Robyn and Simon as they discuss Simon’s past and just how it is that Gordo and Simon know each other.
I want to start off this review by stating that it is so refreshing to see Jason Bateman in a role like this. I won’t deny for a second that Bateman is always so likable in his comedic roles but outside Arrested Development, Bad Words and maybe a few others, I just don’t think these comedic roles showcase his true potential as an actor. When I saw Bateman in Disconnect back in 2012, I was blown away by his performance and seeing him do something completely different.
In The Gift, Bateman’s Simon is really a complex character. At first, the audience sees him in one light but as the film progresses, we see him in a whole another light. Bateman really does a great job here being comedic at times and dramatic at others. It also needs to be said that Bateman can really play the asshole. He’s really great at it and think this performance showcased his range as an actor.
As for Rebecca Hall , she is equally great as Simon’s wife Robyn. I think out of the three leads, Hall is the true star of The Gift because most of the story is focused on her. Similar to Simon, Robyn has a lot of layers and the script does a great job of shaping her as a character. She has a lot of backstory that unfolds as the film continues on. At no point in this film, did I feel unconnected to her and in a lot of ways, Robyn was who I found myself rooting for and feeling the most connected to throughout.
As for Joel Edgerton, his work on this film is pretty impressive. We have seen a lot of actors write, direct, and star in their own film and while some like Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, and Robert DeNiro can pull it off, many others don’t get that lucky. I think Edgerton’s Gordo walks a very fine line as character that is creepy yet one who for some reason you do actually care about. Edgerton never makes the character come off as too unlikable but at the same time, you never stop asking the question, “what the heck is with that guy?”
Edgerton’s script does a great job at building suspense and making the audience question these characters and their actions. I feel the strongest aspect of the script was that it actually made me feel things for each of the characters at different times. There were several moments where I felt bad for one of the characters but then just moments later had a completely different opinion of that character. The script also did a great job of slowly building these character’s backstories so that it never felt rushed or dragged on.
The film’s pacing, direction, and tone were all great as well. The film moves along nicely and the suspense builds naturally. There are a few really good jump scares in the Gift and the reason they are effective is because Edgerton doesn’t overuse the technique like so many thrillers and horror films do nowadays. The atmosphere of this film really reels you in. Its been a very long time since I seen a film with such a creepy aura about it. You always know that something is going to happen but never know when. It’s one of those rare films that after about 15 minutes into it, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next surprise to occur.
In all fairness, as much as I enjoyed The Gift it is not a perfect film. I did find some of it to be a tad bit too predictable at times. The film also introduced a lot of secondary characters that really didn’t serve much of a purpose other than being there conveniently whenever the film needed them. Even with these complaints, I have to say, this film is really solid especially considering the wide array of generic horror/thrillers that are released each year.
All in all, The Gift delivers a lot of suspense, atmosphere, and three really solid performances. The ending is really messed up and was a complete surprise. In a lot of ways, The Gift is really a mystery film that wants its audience to keep their brains on rather than asking them to turn it off. Joel Edgerton is off to a solid start and I think he will only continue to grow as a director.
MovieManMenzel’s rating for The Gift is a 8 out of 10.