Dog’s Movie House: “The Gift” A Pleasure To Unwrap!
Howdy folks! It’s The Kendog!
Debuts behind the camera can be a tricky thing, especially if you’re an actor. Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, and others have had success as directors, but other acting luminaries such as Sally Field, Jean-Claude Van Dam, and Johnny Depp have found that changing their day jobs not quite as successful as they might have thought. So it’s with a great deal of delight that I report that actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, the upcoming Black Mass), has crafted a solid effort in the thriller genre not only as star and director, but as a writer as well with the vastly entertaining “The Gift.”
“The Gift” begins with young couple Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) completing a move to Southern California from Chicago for a new job Simon has just started. It appears to be a fresh start for both as there are hints that events in Chicago seems to have put a strain on their marriage. It also helps that Simon grew up in the area which puts him back in his old stomping grounds.
One day as they’re shopping downtown, they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), a nice but peculiar man who, as it turns out, went to high school with Simon. After a somewhat awkward conversation, Gordo makes himself a presence in Simon and Robyn’s life, appearing at the house with various gifts, doing odd jobs at the house, all out of the goodness of his heart, it would appear. But Gordo’s odd manner sets Simon’s teeth on edge and he and Robyn end up severing the relationship, leading to some bizarre and potentially dangerous behavior by Gordo, who is definitely more that what he seems.
Now don’t let the trailers fool you. To watch the ads you would think that “The Gift” is just a bromance version of “Fatal Attraction” and you would be dead wrong. Both Edgerton the director and Edgerton the writer have a wonderful time both embracing and subverting the conventions of the thriller genre to very entertaining effect. The twists and turns are more about revealing the inner motivations of the characters than twists for the sake of the classic red herring.
Edgerton gets a very good performance out of Bateman, whose easy going charm is a mask for something less pleasant, and Bateman gets to stretch his muscles here a bit. Hall is equally as good as Robyn, the audience surrogate in this case. Robyn is a woman who has to come to grips that her husband has layers to him she has never seen as well as being the one to deal with Gordo’s not always welcome attentions.
But the MVP here is Edgerton as Gordo. His performance is nothing short of amazing. Yes, Gordo has a very creepy vibe at times and his lack of social skills can be unnerving, but Edgerton also imbues Gordo with no small amount of sympathy, and as the film unfolds you find yourself wondering feeling sorry for a man who is clearly wounded by the past.
Edgerton does rely on a couple of jump scares, which is forgivable if not a bit cheap (or I could just be pissed that I actually jumped out of my seat a couple of times), but for the most part relies on a slow build to a very satisfying conclusion. It takes its time, though, so those in pursuit of fast thrills might want to look elsewhere.
For those of you wanting something a little more deliberate and adult in nature, “The Gift” is going to be right up your alley. Avoid the spandex-wearing superheroes this weekend and enjoy a solid debut thriller from a director to watch in Joel Edgerton. 4 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer!
So Sayeth The Kendog!