0381 | The Gift

the-gift-03_gift_004_df-03813c_rgb Joel Edgerton is proving to be a man of many talents: The Gift is the first film he has directed, but he also wrote the screenplay and appears as one of the three leads, playing opposite Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall’s modern-day married yuppies. I suppose it’s not actually that uncommon for one person to fulfil three key roles like this, but if the script is good, the film is good and the acting is good  as is the case here then it certainly deserves highlighting and praising, and Edgerton has performed all three tasks with admirable skill.

The premise is fairly simple, and similar to any number of ‘bunny boiler’ style thrillers: the couple have recently moved back to suburban Los Angeles, Bateman’s Simon having landed a new job, Hall’s Robyn having put her own career on hold in order to concentrate on having children. They bump into an old schoolfriend of Simon’s named Gordo (Edgerton), though it quickly transpires that Gordo’s nickname was ‘Weirdo’ when the pair were growing up. Gordo begins to leave gifts on the doorstep of Simon and Robyn’s large, modernist house, and shows up unexpectedly during the day, slowly raising Simon’s suspicions about his motives. The three meet for dinner a couple of times but something is amiss, strange occurrences begin to take place and gradually the couple try to extricate themselves from this new friendship.

All of which appears, at first anyway, to be taking us down a certain, well-trodden path. However The Gift stands out from the pack by messing with genre conventions, even though it never fully escapes them. There are plenty of reviews out there hinting at (or even revealing) the twists and turns of the plot, so it’s probably for the best if I don’t add to all of that, and I’ll simply say that Edgerton kept me intrigued in all three of his characters, successfully hiding their motives and managing to alter the way they should be perceived throughout the second and third acts. Eduard Grau’s cinematography makes the most of the mirrors and reflective surfaces of Robyn and Simon’s house, and Edgerton regularly separates his characters from one another by having them stand either side of panes of glass, highlighting the problematic nature of the couple’s relationship in particular. It makes for an interesting spin on the Fatal Attraction / Cape Fear model, and very occasionally The Gift even reminded me of Caché, even if it lacks the detatched iciness of Michael Haneke’s film. Sadly ten minutes before the end the writer/director opts for some standard Hollywood thriller tropes the reveal, the twist, the breathless chase, and so on but that certainly doesn’t ruin the film: it’s an assured debut and Edgerton’s writing continues to impress.

Directed by: Joel Edgerton.
Written by: Joel Edgerton.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton.
Cinematography: Eduard Grau.
Editing: Luke Doolan.
Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans.
Certificate: 15.
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Year: 2015.

Comments 17

  1. Jordan Dodd October 16, 2015

    Excellent piece mate. You saw this similar to I did, though the notion of it messing with conventions but not fully escaping them is something that didn’t occur to me.

    I’m so pumped for Joel. He is our top export right now, up and coming at least. He co-wrote the Rover, and also co-wrote and starred in his brother’s film The Square from 2008.

    • Stu October 17, 2015

      He’s really impressing on all three fronts isn’t he? Black Mass is out here soon, so I’m interested to see how he does in a kind of less showy role opposite Johnny Depp (at least from what I can gather from the reviews I’ve read and the trailer). Cheers for the kind words!

  2. Mark Walker October 17, 2015

    This is another that I quite fancy. I’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far and know very little about the plot. I know just enough that my interest is peaked. Edgerton is on good form these days.

    • Stu October 17, 2015

      Another one I’d say is worth checking out, although I have to admit I’ve not thought about it much since writing the review. I’m impressed Edgerton can do three crucial jobs so well, and I think he’ll get some really big, interesting projects in the next couple of years, if he hasn’t already.

  3. Tom October 19, 2015

    Bloody fantastic movie for me, I have it marked down as one of my favorites all year. I think it helped excite me knowing that Edgerton debuted as a director here, he performed incredibly in front of the camera, and wrote a stunningly unpredictable screenplay. My hats off to the guy. This couldn’t have been an easy venture. Love how you make the point that while being an almost one-man show is, these days, more and more common, Edgerton shows why it is impressive if all three aspects leave an impact. Nice piece Stu.

    • Stu October 19, 2015

      Thanks Tom, much appreciated. I’m with you on Edgerton, he does a really good job here on three fronts. I wonder if he will gravitate more towards one discipline in the future, but if he can keep up the workrate I’m sure there’s going to be a big, career-making or career-defining project coming his way soon.

  4. Three Rows Back October 20, 2015

    This kinda came and went at my local but it got a load of great praise. The clips I’ve seen have been impressive; the acting particularly so. Looks like I’ll have to wait until it arrives on Netflix though.

  5. Todd Benefiel October 21, 2015

    Wanna hear something dumb? I’ve known about this movie since its release, yet I took one look at the title and photo above and thought, what is this…Jason Bateman dressed as a World War I soldier sitting with two other soldiers at a table? Anyway, this is one I wanted to check out but never got the chance to, and based on your thoughts, I definitely want to track it down now. Love the term ‘bunny boiler’, too…what a great name for a new film genre. Is it a Stu-ism, or something that’s been in use for a while?

    • Stu October 21, 2015

      I thought bunny boiler was quite well known…it stemmed from Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction. Now a more general disparaging term for women behaving in a peculiar way post-break up. Jason Bateman in World War I…now that’s a film I wouldn’t go and see!

        • Stu October 21, 2015

          Well obviously I can’t speak for you, but I’ve just spent five minutes trying to position my face in the right place for a joke camera app on my phone that enables me to see what I would look like if I had Princess Leia’s haircut and bosom.

        • Todd Benefiel October 22, 2015

          All I can say is, if you ever get the positioning right, the resulting image should be posted on your site, before the new Star Wars film is released. I
          won’t be looking at it, obviously, but it might be fun for others.

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