SYNOPSIS: Can you really go through life having never wronged anyone? Even if you are unaware of how, or when, and even who you may have wronged....chances are there is someone out there who won't ever forget it...or you.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon's high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. Simon doesn't recognize Gordo (Joel Edgerton) at first, but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she starts to question: how well do we really know the people closest to us, and are past bygones ever really bygones?
I’m sure that even to irregular watchers of film and television, this plot seems familiar and tired. Moreover, going in to this screening I’d heard comparisons being thrown around between 1987’s “Fatal Attraction” and this flick, but there is simply nothing to compare what-so-ever (not even close). As the story unfolds, I can guarantee that most viewers will have guessed the plot long before the movie’s halfway mark. Sadly, Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2014) does little to alleviate the air of predictability, instead choosing to throw in a few cheap scares to keep us from falling asleep. In fact, aside from a handful of directorial flourishes during the creepy shower scene and exploring the new house sequences, “The Gift” could have come from any number of faceless Hollywood productions. Needless to say, it’s a sad day when a director decides to play a critical and sinister part in the flick and ends up guilty of underwhelming with blandness, despite his jumping in with both feet to get the job done in his vision.
There are simply very few thrills to be had in “The Gift”. Even non-genre fans will find little to frighten them, and I seriously doubt that anyone would feel their heart miss a beat at any point during the one hundred and eight minute run-time. This flick is obviously going for the standard “slow burning”, creepy atmosphere; in other words, everything about movie is like watching paint dry inside a strange house while throwing in a few suspenseful sequences like a shower scene with creepy music. Ultimately, what we end up having is something some might call a suspense-thriller, but I call it a semi-interesting thriller-wannabe.
On a more positive note, the movie benefits from a trio of sturdy lead performances. Edgerton’s character exudes both menace and fragility, keeping us guessing as to whether Gordo is unraveling or in supreme control. Jason Bateman’s (Horrible Bosses 2, 2014) character shifts seamlessly back and forth between affable charmer and sinister snake. And Rebecca Hall’s (Transcendence, 2014) character has a watchful intelligence and reserve demeanor that make her an ideal moral compass and an audience surrogate. The small supporting cast features, most notably, Allison Tolman (The Mindy Project, TV series) as a welcoming neighbor and Busy Philipps (Arrested Development, 2013) as one of Simon and Robyn’s friends.
The Gift is not to be taken too seriously; it is, above all, a decent flick, with very little new to offer movie-goers. I wouldn’t recommend a theater visit for this one, but more like a weekend DVD rental with the significant other. Three out of five are the amount of stars I’d offer here.
By Movi-Man Stan
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