This one came as a pleasant surprise
The Gift comes our way courtesy of Blumhouse Productions which is getting a reputation for turning out low budget genre flicks like The Purge (2013) and Paranormal Activity (2007) and making a tidy profit. This one caught my attention because it is written and directed by talented actor Joel Edgerton who also plays one of the lead roles. The film is a thriller about a married couple, played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, who have relocated from Chicago to the suburbs of Los Angeles. Simon (Bateman) has a new job with a big software company while Robyn (Hall) is an interior decorator planning to work from home. While out shopping they bump into Simon’s high school friend Gordon (Edgerton) which leads to a dinner invite and a whole world of trouble.
The plot synopsis for The Gift doesn’t promise much but this is so much more than a trashy stalker thriller. It is lifted to a higher level by the quality of the screenplay and the complexity of the characters, especially that of Rebecca Hall. We learn that the combination of stress in her former job and a miscarriage led her down a dark path and hoping that a new start will help her complete her recovery. Simon on the other hand is perhaps not the clean cut guy we thought he was and there is a side to him that he has kept hidden until it is awakened by his reintroduction to Gordon. Ultimately Gordon is a catalyst for a multi-level tale about a couple in crisis who are perhaps kidding themselves that trying again for a baby is going to solve everything.
The first act left me feeling well this OK but its dragging a bit and where is this going? It then builds a little during the second act before the payoff at the end and while I’d seen the trailer and guessed about Simon the film played a blinder in that I didn’t see the final twist coming. That is a big compliment in that as someone who is pretty cine literate and can predict certain things I didn’t figure ‘that’ out. I don’t have that many gripes with The Gift beyond the fact that it got off to that slow start and even though it’s a 90 minute film it does feel more like two hours. I’m not entirely sold on Edgerton’s performance as the socially awkward loner but Hall is fantastic and she turns out to be the centre of the movie.
This is a film I highly recommend because of its surprising depth and acting performances that marks a new high point for Blumhouse and is a step above its usual horror fare. It’s also an exciting debut directing feature for Joel Edgerton who should be commended for his script. My rating 4/5.