Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Gift Review

The Gift Review
You know, Hollywood marketing is a funny thing. Sometimes things are held back in order to keep some of the film a secret, and sometimes a marketing campaign can give away an entire movie in a two-minute trailer. Its amazing based on who decides how to market a movie and why. Who makes these decisions and how do they make them? Its something that I have never come out and actually asked before, and now that I have seen "The Gift," I am absolutely fascinated by marketing campaigns.

Looking at the trailers for "The Gift" over the summer, I can honestly say it wasn't a movie on my radar. It seemed like the typical stalker movie, it seemed like it was going to be a "stranger in my house" horror movie. That was certainly what the trailers made it out to seem. I was definitely fooled, and I am sure it fooled lots of people. It had to. How could anybody see this coming who paid attention to the marketing campaign for this movie? "The Gift" is a tremendous surprise, and I can't believe I missed this one in theaters. If you missed it too, then check this out as soon as possible. You are not going to believe how good this is.

Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play Simon and Robyn Callum, they are a couple who move from Chicago to Los Angeles for a job Simon gets at a digital security firm. The city of Los Angeles also happens to be the city in which Simon grew up in. From the start, its clear that Simon and Robyn are having some kind of an issue, and it feels like this could be a fresh start for both of them. When the couple is out shopping, a man named Gordo (Joel Edgerton) spots Simon. Gordo and Simon were classmates in high school, and the two men make small talk and catch up. Gordo gives Simon is phone number. Simon doesn't remember much from high school, but he does remember Gordo being a strange individual.

Simon and Robyn hang out with Gordo.  Simon is put-off by him, but Robyn finds him endearing. Gordo starts sending gifts and inviting them over to hang out. What seems innocent at first suddenly turns suspicious when Gordo starts showing up at Simon's home when Robyn is home alone. It becomes clear that maybe Gordo isn't who he seems. Why is Gordo constantly visiting Simon after so long? Is Gordo lonely? Or is there something far more sinister at play?

This all sounds like a typical Hollywood movie, but let me assure that "The Gift" is anything but. It seems that Gordo has a specific agenda for Simon. I know, I know, you've heard that one before. While Gordo definitely does some stalking in this movie. He isn't the monster in the house. He isn't trying to kill anyone. In fact, one of the best things "The Gift" does is treat Gordo like a decent human being. They don't paint Gordo as the typical movie stalker. There is a character at play here, a true character. By the end of the movie, it feels like there weren't any good guys or bad guys at all. What is Gordo's obsession with Simon. Ha, I am not giving anything away. All I can say is that if you have a child who is by chance, bullying his classmates at school, sit them in front of the TV and put "The Gift" and "Oldboy" on back-to-back. I can assure you that your child will never bully someone ever again.

Let's talk about Joel Edgerton for a moment. Now, Edgerton is a wonderful actor, he's someone I have liked for many years now. I figured he'd get his big break somewhere, and little by little, he's been making his mark in movies. Edgerton is unbelievably good as Gordo. Like I said above, I love how Edgerton makes him normal and doesn't purposefully make him creepy or a normal opponent we see in movies like this. Edgerton gives Gordo the intelligence and development necessary to sore, and make his character stick out which could have been one-dimensional in someone else's hands. Not only that, but Edgerton wrote and directed "The Gift," and this is his directorial debut. All I can say to that is what a mighty way to begin a career. If Edgerton plans to direct again all I can say is I'll be there opening weekend. Edgerton said that Alfred Hitchcock, "Fatal Attraction" and "The Vengeance Trilogy" (To which "Oldboy" belongs to) inspired the story, and you can definitely see the influences of those movies on this finish product. But rest assured, this isn't a case of a movie being pieces of other movies, "The Gift" is its own thing, and it stands on its own two feet.

Both Rebecca Hall and Jason Bateman are both outstanding here as well. But its Bateman out of the two that really surprises me. We all know Bateman as being something of a funny man, and we know him more for his feel-good roles. Make no mistake, Bateman can create all the emotions of  the human journey. You can see that in little pockets of all his movies, but in "The Gift" he lets the drama flow through him, and it is a masterful performance. I hope this opens lots of creative doors for him, and if he selects the right gig, Bateman could win an Oscar sometime down the road. He's that good here, and gives off emotions and impressions we have never seen from him before. There is a great actor hidden inside him, and we are just now starting to see that, and boy is it something.

I hate sounding hyerbolic, and I don't want to set you up for something you aren't going to get, but if Alfred Hitchcock saw this movie, he would have been impressed by it. I know that's quite the statement for the first movie from a new director. I will even say that not everything is perfect. When the big reveals start happening between the characters, its hard to fathom that the information given wouldn't already be known by the parties involved, but I felt it wasn't something that took me out of the movie. The film is paced well, the characters are engaging and the story takes for a loop without feeling forced. Ignore every piece of advertising for this movie and get out to see this. I promise you'll be discussing your findings with friends and family once the credits roll.

FINAL GRADE: A

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