Now that we’re past the summer blockbuster season, pickings are beginning to become a bit slim when it comes to good cinema. It’s not yet Oscar season – that’ll come later this fall – so for now we’re in a dry spell that’s sparse on quality, silver screen offerings. Thankfully, ‘The Gift’ – a seemingly generic and pass-worthy film if the trailer is to be believed – is actually an unexpected and delightful surprise. If you’re one for tense, psychological thrillers, ‘The Gift’ delivers in abundance and is not to be missed.
‘The Gift’ follows a husband and wife who’ve recently moved into a swanky new home with intentions to start a family. Their bliss is cut short, however, when they become besieged by the fixation of an old high school friend they run into – a friend with whom Jason Bateman’s “Simon” apparently has some kind of troubled history. Though Joel Edgerton’s “Gordo” states he’s willing to let the past be the past, Simon seems unable to recall the details of their long-ago dispute, much to the frustration of Simon’s wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). Things seem innocent enough, however, until Gordo begins leaving odd gifts for the couple and starts visiting Robyn when she’s home alone. When Simon confronts Gordo with demands to stop his stalking, the past comes back to haunt the couple in ways they could never, ever anticipate.
While this setup – again – sounds like any of a hundred other thriller-type flicks that have come before, this one actually serves up a refreshing take on a tired trope. Written AND directed by star Joel Edgerton, ‘The Gift’ slowly ratchets up the tension and does an exceptional job of keeping you anxiously guessing at every porch-left gift. What makes this film especially impacting is the way Gordo reminds you of that one person in high school who probably went on to become a serial killer. You know, the guy you didn’t give the time of day and probably made fun of behind his back? So imagine he just shows up on your doorstep one day and starts making friendly with your partner – it’s chilling stuff and is masterfully acted by the three leads.
‘The Gift’ does have some problems, however. The pacing is a bit uneven and, honestly, there’s probably one too many jump scares. It also seems a bit unrealistic that Bateman’s “Simon” wouldn’t remember Gordo’s beef with him – you absolutely wouldn’t forget a conflict with someone that messed up. But then again, perhaps that’s the point – you don’t forget…not unless you want to. And that opens up a whole other can of questions, which hopefully you’ll appreciate learning (or not learning) the answers to as the film progresses. It’s a shame that the trailer and general plot setup make ‘The Gift’ sound so generic – it’s definitely a standout among thrillers and is one of the summer’s better flicks.
Enjoy the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘The Gift’ on iTunes, Stitcher, or on YouTube, embedded below. And don’t forget to check out the rest of our episodes, available at http://www.moviebearspodcast.com. See you at the movies!