in Review

The Gift

Does a person’s past matter to you? Obviously that’s a question that demands a more nuanced answer than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ because context is important. But still, how much do you worry about the kind of person someone was before they met you? The kind of person they are around other people? The kind of person they are when they’re sure you’re not watching? If that’s the kind of headspace you want to get into, then Joel Edgerton has a gift for you.

The Gift stars Rebecca Hall as Robyn, the poor woman stuck between two seemingly nice men. On the one hand, there’s her loving husband Simon (Jason Bateman), with whom she just moved to California and is eager to start a family. On the other is Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a classmate of Simon’s who by chance runs into the couple after they move to town. Gordo starts leaving the couple gifts on the porch of their fancy, gigantic house and quickly strikes up an awkward friendship with Robyn, one Simon wants to put to a swift end right from the start.

The three leads do good work portraying complicated people with mysterious pasts that are at their best when only hinted at. Honestly, when most of the cards are on the table at the end of the movie, when The Gift is at its most disturbing moment, is when I was least interested in the movie. The reveal was appropriate to this somewhat Hitchcockian thriller, but with all the tense and weird scenes earlier in the story, I hoped for an even more outlandish ending.

Also I think it’s kinda funny this is the movie that Joel Edgerton had to, absolutely had to, write and direct and costar in with an hilarious beard. Was Edgerton sick of all the two-faced bastards in Hollywood? Did he think it was important there was a movie about the silent suffering of upper-middle class white people? Did he just want to prove to everyone that he could do this so that maybe he’d have a shot at the next Marvel, DC, or Star Wars movie? Maybe he’s just an artist that had to art.

Anyway, The Gift was maybe a little too good to be nominated for a Mildly Pleased Award, especially because there aren’t a ton of these domestic dramas these days. Was the last one Lakeview Terrace? Man, Lakeview Terrace was a good movie. If only The Gift had as much to say about society as that did, we might have really had something.