Joel Edgerton masterfully writes, directs, produces and stars in the disturbing suspense thriller, The Gift.
Edgerton’s character, Gordo, explains his personal philosophy on life: That one can make good of a bad situation. This idea is central to The Gift, because the audience is asked to pick a side and find their own truth in a narrative clouded with implications and insinuations.
The slow burn begins with Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall), moving back to L.A., where they encounter an old acquaintance of Bateman’s from school, Gordo (Edgerton). He buys them a simple house warming gift, and then some Koi for their pond, and slowly edges his way into their lives, especially that of Hall’s. Simon wants Robyn to steer clear of Gordo, but she empathizes with him, thinking that he’s merely lonely.
It starts off harmless enough, but the haze starts to roll in with Edgerton’s performance. You can either take him as a pitiful bastard or a manipulative psychopath—Or maybe it’s a bit of both. I cant be sure within the parameters of the film exactly what he’s done, or what he stands for. Perhaps he poisons their fish after seeing his number on their fridge, with the title ‘Weirdo’ scrolled above. Or maybe a clumsy gardener sprayed the tank with pesticide and didn’t own up to it. Either way, the offences against the couple become more heinous from that point on, and Simon “says” it’s Gordo.
Simon himself seems like a good guy at the beginning, but as the film rolls on, the haze of his past rolls in, and the audience sees that Simon may be more bully than victim. Bateman walks the line between the two well, which is no surprise considering he’s made a career of playing the sympathetic asshole. Only, unlike Arrested Development, he plays it straight, free of the wit he’s known for—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t very subtle references to the show.
That leaves, Robyn, the neutral witness to the tale. But even she has a hard time seeing through the diaphanous deception. Both of the men are vindictive assholes who don’t really have her interests at heart. One’s a ‘Weirdo’ from her husbands past, and the other is husband who seems more concerned with his future than his family. Her neighbours and acquaintances side with Simon, but they might be bullies themselves. To complicate matters further, part way through the narrative she starts pumping pills to deal with anxiety. And when the neutral witness cant see clearly, neither can the audience.
The cloud of uncertainty builds and builds up to the final climax, but even after that, the audience cant be sure which is which and who is who—impartially speaking anyhow; I’m sure when the film cut to black and the lights went up, that plenty of people walked out of the theatre partial to either Joel or Bateman’s side. I invite you to go out and see the film and decide for yourself. I’m still unsure, because by the end, there’s so much reasonable doubt that it’s not even a question of who’s in the wrong, but whether they did any wrong in the first place.