I am rarely frightened by films depicting things that “go bump in the night”. Unearthly creatures and zombies and such don’t have the impact on me as does true suspense. Particularly psychological suspense. It’s what I read. It’s what I write. And it’s what I enjoy seeing on the big screen. This is why Alfred Hitchcock has always been one of my favorite directors. He not only created suspense from the outer workings of a plot, but also delved into the twisted psyche of a person’s mind, juxtaposing the two.
When I entered the theatre to see The Gift I had no preconceived notions. (I am referring now to the 2015 release, written and directed by Joel Edgerton, and not the supernatural film that came out in 2000, which was, incidentally, another favorite of mine.) I intentionally avoided reading reviews on it and heard little about it other than that it was a good film.
The story is that of a young, upscale, married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) Callen. They have recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles , the city from which Simon originally hails, because Simon has just gotten an excellent new job. While out buying things for their new home, the couple run into an old high school classmate of Simon’s, Gordon “Gordo” Moseley (Joel Edgerton.)
Though Simon tells Robyn he barely remembers the guy, Gordo is apparently intent on renewing a friendship. He drops by frequently, bringing little gifts for Simon and Robyn, and since he usually does this while Robyn is home alone, Simon becomes increasingly uncomfortable, especially since, as he relates to his wife, Gordo’s nickname in high school was “Gordo the Weirdo”. When Gordo invites the Callens to his house for dinner, Simon seeks to put an end to Gordo’s attempts to insert himself into their company at every opportunity.
Rather than go further in relaying the entire story or offering up “spoiler alerts” I’ll stop here and just say that The Gift has a fair share of twists and turns and detours that the audience does not see coming. Made on a relatively low budget, the film was the directorial debut of Joel Edgerton and a brilliant one it is. In fact, one can see the influence of Hitchcock in Edgerton’s directing. The movie was not only well directed, it was extremely well written as well. But it was the acting that I was particularly impressed by.
In fact, so natural was the acting that it was almost as though the “4th wall” had evaporated and we, the viewers, were witness to actual conversations. Particularly noteworthy was the performance of Jason Bateman. At Oscar time, most nominees for best actor are drawn from “meaningful, true-based” films (movies made by the Weinstein Brothers that either tug at the heart or are significant in other,…well, “meaningful” ways.) Often ignored are performances by those actors who may have appeared in what I refer to as popcorn movies. Movies thoroughly enjoyed by movie-goers who simply want to enjoy their popcorn and be entertained – amused, thrilled, frightened. Hitchcock made those movies and audiences loved them as well as the actors who starred in them.
If Jason Bateman’s acting were to be considered on its own merits, I would say that he most definitely deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Gift.
I highly recommend this film (and that you see it before anyone reveals too much about it.)
Hope everyone had a terrific weekend and thanks for following me on,
Rhodes Less Traveled