Back in the late eighties, once that bunny got boiled, the floodgates were opened. The early nineties gave us a slew of crazy exes, crazy roommates, crazy nannies and crazy tenants. The beats were always the same: hero and his wife invite the Crazy into their lives, the Crazy is innocuously crazy at first, then gets weirder, the cops are called but can’t do anything for…reasons…then the Crazy launches a vicious attack on the hero and his wife and a bloody third act ensues, with the Crazy finally vanquished.
The Gift knows those beats, and it knows you know them. So we start the story the same way; Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robin (Rebecca Hall) are the hero and his wife. They just moved to LA, where Simon used to go to high school. Simon works at Business and is up for a promotion. Robin works at home as a Freelance Something and is getting over a recent miscarriage. Enter: the Crazy. Gordo is his name; he went to high school with Simon and runs into him by chance at a store. He gets their phone number, and learns where they live. Soon he is leaving little innocuous gifts on their front door and popping by unannounced, just to awkwardly say hi to Robin, while Simon is at work. They don’t want to be rude, so they let him into their lives. So…we all know where this is going, right?
I can’t really say anymore. The movie relies on its twists and surprises. Don’t watch the trailer, it gives away far too much. Just trust that you’re in good hands with writer/director Joel Edgerton (Gordo). He’s an actor, so he knows that characters come first, and Jason Bateman gives probably the best performance of the year as the very complicated Simon. Rebecca Hall, who I don’t recall seeing before in anything is equally fantastic as Robin. There’s nothing particularly flashy or memorable about the direction; it’s very workmanlike. It’s clear Edgerton prefers to focus on the two characters primarily. (Gordo himself is mostly just a plot device). Though to be fair, Edgerton’s not above a cheap jump scare or two. Be also warned that the movie has some very grim plot turns that are not for the squeamish. Though the violence is minimal, the implications are quite vile. It’s a bizarre release date for this kind of movie, frankly. It’s the feel-bad movie of the summer for sure. But if that’s your thing (like it is mine), go for it.