Director : Joel Edgerton
Writer : Joel Edgerton
With an already well-established Australian career, Joel Edgerton dodged the stink of the Star Wars reboots and converted his small but significant role into a Hollywood career. But as the writer, director and star of The Gift, he has shown that his ambition exceeds supporting roles in big budget features, and he has proven that he is capable of achieving it.
The Gift has a tight and filmable script that keeps the tension high, but the cost low. Dead fish floating in a pond are much cheaper than car chases and the $59M return on the $5M investment confirms Edgerton’s film-making savvy.
The Gift is basically a three hander, starting with Simon (Jason Bateman) and wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) settling into their idyllic new house in LA. Their new house is almost the fourth main character, with massive windows uncovered by curtains, creating a feeling of openness and exposure that may allow in more than just the afternoon Californian light. While shopping for cushions and throw rugs, they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old school mate that Simon doesn’t recognise and only barely remembers. What should be just a quick ‘stop and chat’ turns into a fledgling friendship as their paths continue to cross.
Jason Bateman is seemingly everywhere and he is perfectly cast here. As a perennial nice guy, we are inclined to overlook the initial hints at a darker side to his character that might create more suspicion with another actor. Robyn is established as the warm heart of the story, but when questions about her behavior in Chicago are raised, we aren’t sure about her either. Gordo is the agent of change, introduced to upset the already delicate balance of Simon and Robyn’s marriage.
Edgerton reportedly dyed his hair to give Gordo a disconcerting look and with the goatee and his choice of tone, he puts out a very Dennis Hopper vibe, which is confirmed as intentional with the double Apocalypse Now reference. Given how many hats he wore on set, he gave a highly nuanced performance. Our view of his character had to shift between compassion, confusion and a vague underlying feeling of menace, often within the same scene.
Treading a similar path to Cape Fear, The Gift presents societal norms and then slams them up against a moral code that was developed out of some long forgotten suffering. Gordo’s apparent quest has the same nobility of purpose that drove DeNiro’s Max Cady, and inspires seemingly abhorrent behavior that is only a consequence of that perceived higher purpose.
The Gift successfully generates sympathy for all three characters and at the same time encourages you to judge them . It keeps you guessing as it navigates the various red herrings and dead ends that define the genre, and it’s entertaining throughout. Once the dust settles and the true nature of the characters and their intentions are revealed, its wraps up perfectly with an ending that is as shocking as it is perfect.
A Must See