Review: The Gift Shouldn’t be Returned

Is Gordo (Joel Edgerton), who works as emcee on trivia night at a local bar, a person who’s willing to let go of the past? Or, is he something or someone much more dangerous?  This question hovers over The Gift, a razor-sharp new thriller and a respite for those looking for something other than superheroes in the dog days of summer. The more we learn about Gordo, the more we realize that he’s just a very socially awkward man with a broken heart, but his victims seem to think he’s more of a threat.

The “victims” are Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), a married couple freshly relocated from Chicago to Southern California. They are out one day at what looks to be a Pottery Barn when Simon runs into Gordo, a guy he knew from High School. They exchange pleasantries,  Simon takes Gordo’s number , and the three go about their day. But then, gifts start showing up at the house, and when the couple doesn’t say thank you in a timely fashion, Gordo stops by for a visit. Even though Simon severs ties with Gordo in an incrediably uncomfortable scene, the needy Gordo refuses to leave them be.

The super fans of this genre are probably saying to themselves they canpredict what is on the horizon.. I’m sure they are all anticipating this movie to take a turn down that Fatal Attraction path, where someone ends up being deranged sociopath and manages to tear the happy family apart with manipulation and violence. I commend Edgerton, who wrote and directed the film as well  for going in an entirely different direction. Edgerton peels away the onion layers of each of the main characters rather than resort to simple good versus evil ,and as we quickly learn , these characters are not who appear to be. What was wonderful about The Gift was the more it veered away from a traditional thriller the more compelling the movie became. I applaud Edgerton for creating a film that zigs when the audience expects it to zag.

Jason Bateman

I can see why Jason Bateman signed on for this movie, attempting to flex his dramatic muscles in a quality screenplay . His serious roles are few and far between, and most of them (Disconnect, The Kingdom) fall flat. Bateman’s smarmy nature is a perfect cover for what we learn later on about Simon. Meanwhile, Rebecca Hall provides the perfect foil to Jason Bateman’s prickly persona .

Edgerton’s cinematography (by Eduard Grau) is utilitarian, not flashy. He does a wonderful job creating the right atmosphere for the film by expressing those subtle visual cues, indicating that someone might be lurking in the dark.

In a world where it seems Hollywood is more and more formulaic, it’s quite refreshing to see something original, in August no less. The Gift will satisfy the biggest of thriller fans and keep audiences entertained until the very end (and yes, for anyone wondering, the end is quite shocking). Edgerton’s The Gift is most unique suspense film, bordering on true horror. Sometimes just being unique can be the best gift of all.

The Gift

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.