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Friday, August 7, 2015


Courtesy of STX Entertainment
2015, 108 minutes
Rated R for language

Review by Joshua Handler

Joel Edgerton's The Gift should never have worked, but does quite well. The film tells the story of a married couple, Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, respectively), who move to LA and run into one of Simon's old high school classmates, Gordo (Edgerton). Gordo seems friendly at first until secrets from his and Simon's past are revealed and everyone's true intentions are revealed

The highlights of this film, surprisingly, are the strong performances. This film is a showcase for Bateman and Hall, two underrated actors who can deliver great performances if given the right role (look at Bateman in Juno or Hall in any number of films). The two play off of each other viciously in the film's more intense scenes, driving the tension to high levels while keeping the drama humane and grounded in reality. Edgerton is a suitably creepy villain who, when everything is laid bare, turns out to be the film's most unexpectedly complex character and one that will cause the most dinnertime discussion. 

Edgerton is a surprisingly adept director and screenwriter. The Gift, while narratively derivative of other films, particularly Oldboy, is an impressively controlled piece of filmmaking. Edgerton throws in some truly disturbing twists and develops his narrative at a beautiful pace. He's a natural storyteller, and the film is consistently engaging and entertaining. 

As tight as Edgerton's direction is overall, though, he could've done without a few jump scares that feel useless and cheap particularly in a film that's otherwise so carefully calculated and thought-out. The score by the prolific and very talented Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi is too melodramatic at points and makes the film feel too much like a B-movie, which it most definitely isn't. 

Overall, The Gift is a fun and disturbing calling card for Edgerton as a screenwriter and director. Edgerton's characters are well-developed and complex - they aren't dumb characters typically found in thrillers, which is very refreshing. It will be welcome if Hollywood casts Bateman and Hall in more roles like these. A large portion of the film works because their performances are so committed and believable. Filmgoers who love thrillers will be pleasantly surprised by The Gift.


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