Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift is a creeping kind of thriller that takes the awkward buddy comedy to a whole new level. Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple who have just moved into a new house. Gordo (Edgerton) is a school friend of Simon’s, whose sudden appearance throws the couple’s lives into chaos.
The Gift uses the same kind of awkward-scares explored by Patrick Brice in Creep, just more cinematically indebted to the thriller genre. Both directors are pondering “weird people”, friends from high school you never really liked, overly-nice folk who just seem to put everyone off, and both explore the pitfalls of those relationships. Except Edgerton has a very different message to impart.
Comedians can do scary pretty well, and though Edgerton proves he’s capable on and off screen, The Gift is very much Bateman’s film in terms of performance. The Arrested Development star shirks off a tonne of typecasting and plays aggressively into his deadpan sarcastic default with wonderful results. He’s an integral part of The Gift’s cynicism towards our perceptions of loved ones.
Congratulations are in order to both cinematographer Eduard Grau (A Single Man) and director/writer for subtly building an air of impending wrath. The image of a small gift wrapped package on the doorstep of Bateman’s dull pricey glass-wrapped home becomes genuinely chilling as the movie progresses. Even without Edgerton, the packages seem so insidiously purposeful their contents become a naff punchline or worse, passively aggressive.
The Gift is a film built off the back of awkward social encounters, at first entirely innocent if vaguely jarring, finally downright uncomfortable. Edgerton blatantly points a hammy finger at the audience and tells each of us that we’re guilty in some way of bullying. In the end, Edgerton’s film is a little disappointing in its twist, finally deciding that this film isn’t as much about the wife as we thought, instead, she’s a bartering chip used to hurt Bateman, and it just seems a bit dull, not to mention contrived in the face of certain modern medical tests.
It’s a drama about doubt and anxiety, family and friends, an awkward date movie, and a disturbing moral tale that sports the best Bateman performance I’ve seen and an impressive debut from Edgerton.
Dir: Joel Edgerton
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall