It’s a nifty, little, psychological thriller. I think it misses greatness when the third act plot developments become a little too unwieldy, and ultimately overly familiar. Until getting close to unraveling though, it’s tightly plotted and very suspenseful. It was written and directed by actor Joel Edgerton, who also plays the creepy protagonist. We seen Mr. Edgerton before, in critically acclaimed works like 2011’s “Warrior” and 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty”, but this is his feature directing debut. It’s minimally budgeted, and did some decent box office numbers, so it was a late-summer sleeper hit. Good for Mr. Edgerton…I enjoyed this.
Simon Callum (an effectively sleazy, Jason Bateman) is relocating to Los Angeles with his wife, Robyn (the always interesting, Rebecca Hall) for an exciting, new job opportunity. When Simon bumps into an old high school classmate at an upscale L.A. shop, he doesn’t recognize him at first. Once he realizes it’s an old friend named Gordon (a very good Mr. Edgerton), they catch up quickly, then exchange information. But soon Gordon, nicknamed Gordo from school days, starts showing up at Simon’s home unannounced, bearing gifts, but making Robyn very uneasy. Still, Robyn feels sorry for him, even after Simon confesses that they sometimes called Gordo “weirdo” back in school. They have him over for dinner, but the situation remains odd–and Gordon keeps dropping off gifts while Robyn is home alone. Soon, we learn of a Gordon secret…and a Simon secret too. And before long, Robyn is questioning her relationship, her husband’s past…and even her safety.
“The Gift” has a nice, methodical simmer of a build to its plot devices. I appreciated its patience, and the performances are mostly very strong. Maybe Bateman is guilty of working a bit too hard, but it’s nothing fatal. However, the late film “reveal” does seem a little bit too pat and familiar, and it leads to a finale that is somewhat more garish than the early going would suggest. It receives kudos for not allowing that to go full throttle though, instead reeling back just enough to allow things to play out psychologically. That was smart. “The Gift” was unusual summer entertainment that succeeds. I hope it finds a healthy life on home video–Edgerton deserves it, and Ms. Hall is always wonderful to watch.