"A Gift You May Not Want To Open"
What You Need To Know:
THE GIFT is an excellent suspense thriller. On the surface, it’s a morality tale on bullying and the negative effects it can have on an individual. On a deeper level, the psychological thriller plays with the single thought that ideas, or more specifically lies, can poison the mind. In this sense, there’s a biblical moral that plays out in THE GIFT. Sadly, however, evil still wins in the end. While there’s surprisingly no violence, THE GIFT has strong foul language and lewd references that require extreme caution.
(B, Pa, FR, Ho, LLL, V, S, A, DD) A biblical moral message against bullying and lying, but evil is repaid with evil and true reconciliation and repentance isn’t seen, so the effect is mixed, plus a man uses a Bible verse as a threat, and a child is wrongly called homosexual when he was young, and other children also spread a lie about him being molested in a car; at least 41 obscenities (about half or so are “f” words) and eight profanities (including GDs and abuses of Jesus’s name); no graphic violence, but a brief scene where a man is man-handled and gets a cut on his head, some scary scenes of suspense; some sexual references include a character may have raped a drugged woman and impregnated her, references to homosexuality and molestation, brief mentions and jokes of male genitalia, brief kissing; no nudity but a woman's upper back is shown twice in a shower; wine at dinner parties; woman sneaks some unnamed pills that make her paranoid; and, no other immoral content.
THE GIFT is a psychological thriller that’s skillfully eerie and occasionally profound, but also disturbing enough that most media wise viewers will prefer leaving this gift unopened.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have moved to Los Angeles from Chicago, close to where Simon grew up. Simon’s new job allows them to buy a beautiful home in the hills, and Robyn, a designer, is still working from home, recovering from the loss of their unborn baby. While at a department store, Simon is approached by a socially awkward man who introduces himself as Gordon (Joel Edgerton), Simon’s childhood schoolmate. After an uncomfortable exchange, they exchange numbers and part ways.
A few days later, Robyn notices a bottle of wine by their front door from Gordon. Not remembering if they gave Gordon their address, they accept the gift with intentions to call and thank him. The next day, Gordon stops by with another gift, so Robyn invites him to join her and Simon for dinner as a way of saying thank you. Gordon is bullish on any details of what he did with his life after school, but he can’t stop reminiscing about the past.
After the dinner, the random day visits and strange gifts increase from Gordon. When Simon refers to Gordon as “Gordo the Weirdo,” a nickname from school, and Gordon accidentally finds out about this, the couple decides to meet with Gordon to ask him to stop visiting. Gordon says he’ll stop and in a letter writes that he was willing to let “bygones be bygones.” This part of the letter sticks with Robyn who can’t get Simon to reveal what happened in the past between him and Gordon. Paranoia develops, and Robyn even resorts to her old habits of taking pills behind Simons back.
Things simmer down, Simon and Robyn find out they are having another baby and some time passes. However, Robyn is compelled to dig into Simon’s past to find out the truth. She discovers Simon was a bully, especially to Gordon, and inadvertently ruined Gordon’s life. When she confronts Simon, he refuses to admit to any wrongdoing. Simon’s true colors begin to show, and he begins to self-destruct. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Gordon delivers one last gift to Simon that reveals his true intentions.
THE GIFT is written and directed with meticulous precision and a steady pace by Joel Edgerton, who also stars as Gordon. In fact, Edgerton’s unnerving presence as Gordon is what makes THE GIFT suspenseful. Also, Edgerton rarely resorts to stereotypical scare tactics. Though Jason Bateman’s character Simon isn’t so different from Bateman’s roles in previous movies, his character and persona are a perfect fit for this particular story.
On the surface, THE GIFT is a morality tale on bullying and the negative effects it can have on an individual. On a deeper level, the psychological thriller plays with the single thought that ideas, or more specifically lies, can poison the mind. Gordon’s life was ruined by Simon due to a single lie that infected the minds of everyone around them when they were kids. Gordon repays Simon in similar fashion by infecting both him and Robyn with ideas, containing lies and truths, one gift at a time, and it tears them apart.
THE GIFT will make many people remember individuals they’ve wronged, and it may even spur some reconciliation. In this sense, there’s a biblical moral that plays out in THE GIFT. That said, reconciliation and repentance is not one of the gifts presented in this movie, and, thus, evil wins in the movie’s nearly poetic ending. While there’s surprisingly no violence, there’s strong foul language and sexual references requiring extreme caution.
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