The Gift (2015): Unsatisfying Karma (Review)

Jason Bateman in The Gift

Aussie performer Joel Edgerton  wrote and directed this mystery/thriller and considering that this is his first feature length film behind the lens, and it front of it, The Gift does very well indeed. It is, unfortunately, a karmic film that ends on a rather unsatisfactory note. When all is said and done, we the audience really want something more. An end that befits this bullying and manipulative douche on two legs.

There is a twist in this tale about bullying and the film’s overall message is that a leopard cannot and will not change its spots.  Starring Jason Bateman, Brit actress Rebecca Hall, Edgerton and Fargo star Allison Tolman The Gift entertains but loses steam midway through once we figure out what is really going on. 

Simon and Robyn are a young and successful couple who have put recent tragedy behind them and moved to Los Angeles. Simon (Bateman)  has a new job and Robyn (Hall) works from home.

The couple buy a lovely clifftop house and as they buy furniture and essentials for their new palace, they bump into Gordon (Edgerton). “Gordo” remembers Simon from high school and he offers up his phone number. Simon is uncomfortable as he cannot really remember the other man, he says.

Gordon begins insinuating himself into Rebecca and Simon’s life, giving them  gifts and stopping by to visit with Rebecca. Things soon begin to go sour and Simon, despite coming across as a nice guy, reveals a side that is a tad unpleasant.

A lot of mystery and suspense is built up by the audience, as well as Simon and Rebecca, wondering just what Gordo is up to.  Other questions arise as it appears that Simon knows a lot more about Gordon than he admits.

In many ways “The Gift” feels an awful lot like the anatomy of a bully.  For anyone ever bullied in school, the film’s message that bullies never change, may be a bit daunting. There, however,  is a small silver lining to this metaphorical cloud.  While they may not change bullies do not, apparently, get any smarter either.

At first the mystery is engaging but as Rebecca begins to do a little digging,  things begin to slow down . It is here that the film begins to reach that unsatisfactory stage. The final act leaves one man “broken” and another satisfied with his actions. Sadly the end  feels a bit of an anti-climax.

Like horror films that hesitate to reveal what is behind that door, the ending of The Gift does something similar.  The punishment meted out is pretty devastating but ultimately one wishes for so much more. Ergo the end is an unsatisfactory bit of karmic justice that while  devastating could have been so much worse.

Bateman, Hall and Edgerton do well with their respective performances.  The director does a capable job in front of and behind the camera.  Gordo comes across as a mix of “kicked mongrel” and  obsequious  stalker.

The many gifts he bestows on the couple make us uncomfortable.  If there is any complaint about the film, it would be that the plot is spelled out too well. We learn, as Rebecca goes snooping around, that things are not what they appear at all.

These reveals, despite being spaced out, lead us to the conclusion well ahead of time. Regardless of this, The Gift is an entertaining film.

This is a solid 4 star film. It loses a full star due to its signposting being far too evident. The Gift is streaming on Hulu at the moment. Stop by and watch this one, it may be a tad unsatisfactory in the karma stakes but it is entertaining enough to pass muster overall.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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