August 7, 2015

Movie Review: The Gift (2015)

The Gift is a mediocre summer thriller that feels like what it must be like to read an airport drugstore thriller. It has all the elements needed to tell the story and on the surface is compelling enough, but it fails to really do anything other than go through the motions. It is a movie that involves the audience, but while it gives the semblance of depth, it seems more content to just sit on the surface and let the audience bring their own ideas to it, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, only it gives the plot and you have to give it character.

The movie was written and directed by one of its stars, Joel Edgerton. While I am not the biggest fan of this movie, I do think Edgerton is an up and coming talent to keep an eye on. He is a solid actor, and his writing is nothing to scoff at (well, maybe a touch here), after all, he did pen last year's excellent The Rover. He also manages to be a rather creepy presence here without being overly frightening, more disconcerting. Still, I wish the movie was a bit more, just more.

The Gift focuses on a couple, Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), who move into a new home and have a chance encounter with an old classmate, Gordo (Edgerton). Before long, Gordo is leaving gifts on their doorstep and showing up at odd times to say hi and lend a helping hand. He is a nice enough fellow, but something seems to be a bit off and Simon is quick to want to cut ties. This is where things begin to take a change.

The film tells of sins of the past having an effect on the present, as well as the idea that a child's bullying can lead to unintended consequences that can haunt you for the rest of your life. It is certainly an interesting concept and a different way to approach bullying in a cinematic style. It also touches on what can we really know about people that are around us, secrets that may be held back and thought buried that can get unearthed at inopportune times.

The ideas are really pretty interesting, I just wish that the characters were more interesting. They all feel like props used to propel the plot rather than as vehicles to draw you in. For example Bateman and Hall do not have good chemistry, and if their characters were a real couple, I doubt they would have lasted long. Simon is a jerk who needs to be called out for his jerkiness, Robyn would rather talk to other people than call him on the carpet. Then there is the reveal of the issues of the past, all we get are hints and allegations, nothing is really dealt with. The audience is left picking up the pieces.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to leave questions unanswered, but it feels like just as the puzzle is starting to take shape, a bully comes in and upends the table, sending the image you have flying in fifty different directions. It is when this happens that I am more apt to throw up my hands than get reinvested in putting it back together.

It is not a bad thriller, it is just not one that digs itself in. The prop characters, the scattered pieces, the unexplored creepiness just leave me on the outside looking in. Enjoy the surface of it, just don't bother scratching beneath the surface.

Mildly Recommended.

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