Monday, August 10, 2015

The Gift Review

You may have only noticed it in passing, if it all, but Warrior is one of the most underrated motion pictures of the decade so far, no joke. It's the film that truly put Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy on the map for me, as well as giving the world as commanding performance from Nick Nolte. In the years since, the two leads of the film have gone on different paths, with Hardy being a Batman villain and the new Mad Max while Edgerton hasn't struggled per se, he just hasn't had a breakout leading man performance in the four years since Warrior.

Edgerton doesn't take the spotlight in terms of acting in The Gift, but he does play a major role in it, as well as being the sole writer and director of the project (he's also one of a number of producers on the film). This being his debut directorial feature, I was interested to see what he'd bring to the table with this films intriguing premise. Thankfully, Edgerton isn't just a great actor, but also a sly writer/director that knows how to perfectly subvert expectations and keep a viewer guessing all the way until the credits roll.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are the sort of couple who live a conventional, but fulfilling life, a tranquil existence upended by the arrival of Gordon (Joel Edgerton), an old classmate of Simons whose a bit peculiar and eccentric. From the get-go, The Gift shows a pivotal strength in being able to depict its characters in a nuanced manner, with Gordon being more reserved in his anxiety ridden tendencies (I love the posture Edgerton gives the character that seems to convey Gordons uneasiness in any given social situation) that give him a sympathetic edge in the earliest portions of the story.

Similarly, Simon and Robyn have their character foibles executed in a way that keeps the film rattling off new plot twists without ever making the entire movie feel like its entering bad soap opera territory in terms of delivering pristine story points. Robyn, for instance, has her own personal conflicts to deal with that Rebecca Hall injects palpable sorrow into and you can see why she'd appreciate having an attentive (if slightly unconventional) friend like Gordon around.

Simon is not quite as enamored with his old High School classmate,  and Jason Bateman turns his characters reasons for not quite embracing the return of Gordon with equal parts menace and tragedy. Jason Bateman actually takes a cue from a number of his comedic characters (such as Michael Bluth) who have a tendency to get stuck in situation far bigger than themselves and adds a smattering of potent intimidation to that archetype. Similar to those layered characters in The Gift, this movie deserves major kudos for keeping the pace of the film engrossing, with a large number of elements of the film like character arcs and even jokes being perfectly delivered in the area of timing. Pacing is crucial in a film like this that's trying to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and tension, which, needless to say, The Gift pulls off with startling aplomb.

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