Cert: 15 / 108 mins / Dir. Joel Edgerton / Trailer
Okay, from the film's trailer, you'd expect The Gift to be a bit 'Channel 5'. And in a few too many places, it kind of is, although it's still worth a gander for a Saturday night on the sofa. A perfectly serviceable, if unambitious, psychological thriller from Joel Edgerton sees Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) up-sticks from Chicago to Los Angeles in a bid to leave stresses and troubles behind them and start afresh. But a chance counter with Gordo (Edgerton), an old acquaintance of Simon's, starts a chain of events which unearths the past and threatens their future.
Yeah, it is a bit, isn't it? As mentioned above it's by no means a bad flick, just a little tried-and-tested. Jason Bateman's always good value for money, but he's still Jason Bateman™, even when his role gives him a longer leash to roam on than most of his movies. As the discomfort of the film increases, it often feels like Horrible Bosses without the gags. Also holding her head high is Rebecca Hall, whose performance here reminds me of Michelle Forbes in Kalifornia; ie so much better than the rest of the film. The only real stumbling block is Joel Edgerton himself. While he plays the role of Gordo with restraint, his direction sometimes feels a little heavy-handed. But that's also got to come down to his screenplay. While he doesn't put on The Star Shoes™ by any means, I think the film suffers from having him in the Writer/Director/Producer/Actor chairs, and it could have done with a few more creative contributors.
Much like Knock Knock, the audience ends up wanting bad things to happen to Simon and Robyn largely because of the sheer ostentatiousness of the property they live in. Also, Robyn must be the only "designer" in modern cinematic history who doesn't use a Mac (Acer have signed off on the product placement, but Microsoft don't appear to, so we never get to see her actually on-screen working. Although if the bland-quality of her 'lost-dog' poster is anything to go by, that's probably just as well. The film doesn't properly explain it, but I imagine the dog comes home out of embarrassment, having collected all of the posters on the way and put them in the bin).
Importantly, the film's overbearing tension certainly works, as do a handful of orchestrated jumps (Loud Noises™), but the normality which is meant to accentuate these is more stilted and awkward than it should be. A lot of the early dialogue feels ad-libbed; not a problem with the main cast-trio, but the secondary characters suffer with it. The opening act also features backstory exposition which is clunky to the point of cue-carded. But, when it comes down to it, there's a decent story here, and it'll entertain you if nothing else.
Oh, film/promo/newspaper-review type people: that thing at the crescendo of the film? That's not "a twist"; that's "the plot". Please look up the difference.
It's ironic that in order to be the interesting film of its few final scenes, Edgerton's project has to be a well-worn psych-thriller for the first hour and a half. The pay-off's worth it, but only just.
The Gift really wants to be Se7en, but never really gets past being The Hand That Rocks The Cradle...
It's a rental, tops. A good rental, but a rental nonetheless.
It probably does, although Edgerton set his bar lower than he perhaps should have.
The Gift stars, and is directed by, none other than Young Uncle Owen himself, Joel Edgerton.
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