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Movie Night – 'The Gift' has tense mystery about past (Aug. 19, 2015 issue)

Sometimes the best things come in unexpected places. Such is the same with movies, occasionally the ones you expect the least from end up being the most enjoyable because your expectations were more than fulfilled. While “The Gift” isn’t the best movie of the year, it is surprisingly good.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young couple relocating from Chicago to Los Angeles after Simon takes a new job. They quickly find a home and begin to settle into their new life. While Simon is at the office Robyn spends her days working at home with their dog. Their life seems ideal.
While out shopping for items for their home they run into Gordon “Gordo” Moseley (Joel Edgerton). Simon doesn’t recognize him at first, but Gordo recognizes Simon from high school. After a brief encounter and the exchanging of phone numbers they part, Simon likely expecting to never see Gordo again. Until the next day when a gift is left for Simon and Robyn on their doorstep.
Gordo begins dropping in unannounced while Simon is at work and Robyn is home alone. Gifts occasionally appear at their door from Gordo. At one of his unannounced visits Robyn invites Gordo to stay for dinner and a pleasant, although fairly awkward, meal ensues. Though Gordo is nice, there’s something off about him. He’s both creepy and meek at the same time. In school Simon and his friends called him Gordo the Weirdo and little seems to have changed for Gordo in the ensuing twenty years.
The friendship breaks down when Gordo invites Simon and Robyn to his home for a dinner party and no one else shows up for the party. Against Robyn’s wishes Simon decides to break off the friendship. Suddenly, bad things start happening. Their dog goes missing and their goldfish in their outdoor koi pond are poisoned. Robyn learns that something happened in high school between Simon and Gordo, a secret that Simon won’t reveal to her. Robyn is convinced that secret is the key to the escalating scale of bad things happening in their life.
The general theme of the movie is foreboding with a bit of menace just under the surface. There is very little score to the movie and many scenes are filmed in almost absolute silence, which only heightens the tension.
In addition to playing Gordo, Joel Edgerton wrote and directed “The Gift.” While he was good as the disturbing Gordo, his real talent with this movie lies with his directing. The tense moments were drawn out to just the right length and the overall mood of the movie contributed to the feeling that something sinister is right around the corner in every scene.
It was unusual to see Jason Bateman in a serious role rather than the comedies, “Horrible Bosses” and “The Change-Up” to name a couple, that everyone has come to expect from him. Bateman is good as the protagonist with a past that he will do anything to keep from being revealed while protecting his wife. His role is a bit of a surprise.
The only real issue with the movie was the ending. Without revealing the climax of the movie, the ending is a bit of a let-down. I was expecting something more, a crescendo leading to a great moment of suspense along with a resolution of the story. Sadly, neither were provided.
“The Gift” proves that your past will eventually catch up with you. It’s filled with suspense and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll when you are still expecting more movie.
Grade: B+
Rated R for language.