Take a bow
The three previous screenwriting credits of Joel Edgerton ( The Square, Felony,
The Rover) have indicated there is much, much more to this respected Australian actor than immediately meets the eye.
Now, with The Gift, Edgerton makes his feature directorial debut, with proper Hollywood backing, no less.
Using yet another of his cleverly constructed scripts as a blueprint, Edgerton has crafted a ripping, mainstream thriller that will only enhance his reputation as one of this country’s finest cinematic talents.
Proceedings start ordinarily (if uncomfortably) enough.
Security executive Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have just moved to a new city, and are in the process of settling in to their lavish new digs.
While buying a few muchneeded items at a furniture store, a rather nondescript gentleman walks up to Simon and introduces himself.
He says they knew each other back in high school. Simon doesn’t look so sure about this news to begin with. Then the penny drops. Simon and Gordo (Edgerton) did indeed know each other once upon a time. Now Gordo is of the belief the time is right for them to get to know each other all over again.
Days later, a prettily wrapped parcel arrives on Simon and Robyn’s doorstep. It is from Gordo. He hadn’t been given the couple’s home address.
Uh-oh. Then comes the surprise drop-by. Double uh-oh.
Though Robyn shares Simon’s view that Gordo is more than a bit of a weirdo, she thinks an invitation to dinner is in order to repay his initial shows of kindness. Let’s hit the pause button right there on any further detailed description of the plot. One of the truly disturbing delights of The Gift is how it can continually change your reading of events in the space of a scene.
Edgerton’s assuredly shrewd handling of this mischievous material is a trump card played by The Gift time and time again.
Just as crucial is the against-type casting of Bateman as Simon. This is a character that takes some time getting to know — arguably more so than the mysterious Gordo — and Bateman’s choice to resist falling back on the arch sarcasm he usually deploys on-screen saves the film from any number of predictable outcomes.
Though saddled with a relatively thankless role, Hall also makes a strong and telling contribution at a few key moments when The Gift threatens to double-back into face-slapping self-parody.