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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Just because you're done with the past..."

"…doesn't mean the past is done with you."  ‘The Gift,’ actor Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut, has been causing quite a buzz since its release.  Lauded by critics and audiences alike, the movie brings to mind the classic suspense thrillers popular during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s such as ‘Fatal Attraction,’ ‘Pacific Heights’ and ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.’  Boasting a stellar cast including Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Edgerton himself, ‘The Gift’ shines as a modern example of Hitchcockian suspense that’s all too rare nowadays.
 
Talk about managing our expectations.  'The Gift' introduces us to Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) Callen, an outwardly normal couple whom we take a liking to instantly.  Bateman usually plays luckless schmucks in comedies like ‘Arrested Development,’ until ‘Bad Words’ showed that he can out-jerk even 'The Jerk' Steve Martin himself.  Bateman displays his versatility again in this film, gradually unveiling the true colors that he hid so well in the beginning. When a “stranger” named Gordo (Edgerton) befriends the Callens with gifts who later reveals himself to be a childhood acquaintance of Simon’s, things take a turn for the bizarre, culminating in a climactic payoff worthy of water cooler conversation.
 
The plot, pacing and caliber of acting in ‘The Gift’ are quite effective.  Solid performances from Edgerton, Bateman and Hall provide depth to their characters as well as elicit empathy from the viewers.  Edgerton in particular gave a quietly subtle performance as the socially awkward and disturbed Gordo, whose past history with Simon is uncovered slowly and masterfully, much like the peeling of an onion.  If you enjoy slow-burning paranoia thrillers, you simply can't go wrong with 'The Gift.'
 
Grade: A
 
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