Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Gift (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Gift

Joel Edgerton, the Australian actor turned director, who is most known for his gangster roles, strikes the perfect key in his  debut "The Gift".  This striking film is also oddly thoughtful and will keep you hooked from beginning to end.

Jason Bateman plays Simon, an upwardly mobile man in a security firm. After looking to buy a spacious house with his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall), Simon bumps into a shy high school classmate Gordo (Edgerton) who gazes at Simon, as if hypnotized. Simon, embarrassed that he doesn't immediately recall the acquaintance, makes a cursory promise to get together, though not thinking for a moment that they will actually meet.

That night there is a gift at the door: an expensive bottle of wine.

But why?

The next day, Robyn is alone at home and a pale, black clothed man is at the door. Gordo. He asks for Simon. Robyn says he is at work, but offers him a house tour. The next day there is a gift of fish in the koi pond.

This spooks Simon to no end as it means that Gordo violated Simon and his wife's personal space. That night, the three of them have dinner that goes pleasantly enough despite some awkwardness.

The following day, Gordo again visits and asks for Simon. Robyn invites Gordo to stay for tea. In the kitchen, Gordo sees the word "Weirdo" under his phone number. Simon braces himself for some tense conflict, but rather than seeming hurt, Gordo invites the couple to dinner at his house.

The two are stupefied by the reaction which is intensified further by the fact that Gordo lives in a sprawling mansion, befitting Maria Shriver.

Just as suddenly as he warmly receives his guests, Gordo announces that he must take care of a work related issue and that he will return within five minutes. Simon and Robyn are speechless.

Gordo half admits to Simon that his well to do persona that he projected to them has been false.

Feeling manipulated and taken advantage of, Simon tells Gordo that he doesn't want his friendship or gifts.

This is difficult as Gordo is self deprecating, complimentary, and by all accounts, a kind person.

Though it has elements of Adrian Lynne's "Fatal Attraction" and Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt", the apprehension is given a fresh originality because we are not given all of the jolts at once. The strangeness is delivered primarily through the acting and not by jumpy scares. Edgerton is terrific and nearly iconic as this singularly odd, dark haired man with the bottomless espresso toned eyes, who is not savage nor gentle but oddly soft and made passive by the bitters of the past.

Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are spot on as well in their roles as the obsessive career man and the empathetic and deliberate wife.

The conjuring trick of the film is that you almost sympathize with the spaced out Gordo. Moreover,  final scene, which hits like the snap of a noose  might have you thinking of "Rosemary's Baby".

"The Gift," while having a few referential quotes from other films has a flair and energy, appropriating from affection and not affectation. The story is karmically creepy with its own eccentricity and never loses its punch.

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