The Gift Review: A Devilish Delight to Unwrap

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The basic premise of The Gift is far from original. A couple moves into a new home and are creepily harassed by their neighbor, in this case one of their old classmates from high school. But the film succeeds by taking a tired story and giving it a fresh new ending. Some masterfully tense moments don’t hurt either.

The film opens with some wonderfully authentic scenes between the couple, Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) as they move in, thus setting the tone as realistic as it gets for this kind of movie. Even the film’s “villain” Gordo (Joel Edgarton) never quite goes over-the-top.

This being Edgarton’s directorial debut, he keeps things small, but never insignificant. The film’s ambiguities are earned and don’t need answering. The details are rich and the story as satisfying, more kudos to Edgarton since he also wrote the script. Actually, this is one of the best actor-to-director films in recent memory. It’s not quite Ben Affleck territory, but it’s close.

But the film’s true strength lies in the courage of its ending to partially justify a lot of things that happen in the film. What could have easily ended with a standard creepy house confrontation instead becomes unexpectedly nuanced and emotionally complex. For fans of the thriller genre tired by old tropes, The Gift really does offer something new.

In a way, the film turns on itself in a rewarding manner very similarly to Ex Machina earlier this year. Both use the tropes of their genres effectively to build tension, but then create something new. The Gift doesn’t look as gorgeous as that sci-fi powerhouse, nor is it nearly as thought provoking. But the movie is still proof that to create something refreshing, sometimes its best to go back to the basics and build up from there. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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