Movie review: ‘The Gift’ thrills from a unique perspective
Directed By Joel Edgerton
Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, David Denman, Allison Tolman, Busy Philipps, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, Katie Aselton
Rated R, Thriller, 108 minutes
Joel Edgerton, actor, writer and now director of “The Gift,” approaches the thriller genre from a Hitchcockian perspective — blurring the line between victim and villain.
When we meet Robyn and Simon (Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman), they are recently relocated from Chicago to Los Angles for Simon’s new job — a good job judging by the Hollywood Hills home they’ve decided to purchase.
Turns out Simon is originally from Southern California, and while buying household accessories at an upscale store, Simon and Robyn run into one of Simon’s high school classmates. It’s an awkward encounter that reveals an unexpected side of Simon when he initially claims to be unable to place the acquaintance. Once the man identifies himself as Gordon Moses (played by Joel Edgerton), Simon shakes Gordon’s hand and calls him “Gordo,” a nickname from their school days.
Simon takes Gordo’s number but, predictably, never calls. Soon, Gordo, who seems determined to reconnect, begins leaving small but thoughtful gifts on Simon and Robyn’s doorstep. Next Gordo turns up at their glass-walled home while Simon is at work. Robyn welcomes him in.
Gordo seems lonely and Robyn, still finding her emotional footing after a recent miscarriage, invites Gordo to dinner. The meal is another awkward experience, particularly for Simon. He later tells Robyn they will have nothing more to do with Gordo, whose full high school nickname was “Gordo the Weirdo.”
Gordo doesn’t take the hint, and soon Robyn discovers that Simon may not be telling her everything about either his past or his present behavior. Simon, not one to discuss the past, prefers to “move on.” But what appears to be Simon’s easy, friendly facade masks his determination to get what he wants, and to that end, he isn’t above bullying or deceitful behavior. Likewise, Gordo wants to be friends, but he appears to have a plan B in the event that friendship between himself, Robyn and Simon doesn’t work out.
The story unfolds from Robyn’s viewpoint as she attempts to figure out whether she can trust her husband. Meanwhile, a parallel story finds Simon determined to climb further up the corporate ladder and equally determined to keep Robyn happy, even if he must eat a ration of humble pie.
In many regards this is a woman’s thriller as we watch Robyn rally her strength and wits as she fits the puzzle together. Should a woman embrace the benefits of being with an alpha male even when his behavior is offensive? It’s interesting to find a thriller that examines such a question, even if it is cursory and that examination is seen from the viewpoint of an idealized woman. The dichotomy is that, while ambitious people regularly confront difficult choices, it’s human nature to enhance our chances for success and difficult to know where to draw the line.