THE GIFT Review,
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Edgerton
Directed by Joel Edgerton
After becoming the undisputed king of the horror movie franchise with Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister all under his belt; Producer Jason Blum is not the only person to stretch his wings on this clever indie. Joel Edgerton, probably best known for his controversial role in Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, writes, directs; and stars in what could be best defined as a psychological thriller/horror.
Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as Simon and Robyn, a couple who are relocating to Los Angeles after Simon gets a new job as a multi-billion dollar corporation. However, their lives in a land of milk and honey is quickly intruded upon when Simon is recognised by an old classmate: Joel Edgerton’s Gordo Moseley. Gordo quickly endears himself to the unsettled Robyn with a string of gifts to the couple, but Simon is highly suspicious of the man he dubs “Weirdo Gordo”. After some tense encounters, their relationship deteriorates; and then the troubles begin.
Edgerton uses an intriguing method of cinematography. He leaves a lot of his shots open to interpretation, and the dream house that Simon and Robyn have purchased turns into Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Edgerton is very good at hiding clues amid a wide angle or master shot; and this shows a great deal of promise for a first-time director. Onscreen he also creates an enigmatic individual in the form of Gordo; for whom you will feel empathy, pity and disgust. Edgerton reportedly shot all of his acting scenes in the space of a week; and you sense a lack of detachment from him throughout the film. Nonetheless, Edgerton does provide tension which keeps the film rolling all the way through its slightly over-long running time. The film seems to lose its way around midway through, and I did find certain subplots boring compared to the primary (and effect) premise. Despite this, the film is pulled back for the final twenty minutes; which certainly chilled the audience in the screening I was in. The film respects the audience, which will pull you in even more.
While Edgerton is excellent as Gordo, real praise must be awarded to Bateman and Hall; whose chemistry echoes that of the characters. All three of the leads take their moments and beats at a sprint in this film, and each walk away with good notices; particularly Bateman, who brings even more ambiguity to Simon than Joel Edgerton does for Gordo and carries the final act with intrepid determination.
My faults with this film is that it too often strays into the middling obscurity of a casual thriller. Edgerton corrects the flaw towards the end, but there is a lack of focus during the second act; where Gordo’s presence is missed. Overall though, I would say that this is a very supple film which left me wanting more.
Verdict: On a thin line between being concise and muddled, but Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut has considerable talent on show; and will probably become bigger and better once I’ve seen it a second time. Try not to watch it home alone.