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Monday, August 31, 2015

Every movie has two stages of effect on its viewers. There is the initial effect that comes after the movie has ended and the energy of the movie is still vibrant in the viewer’s mind, and there is the lingering effect that comes after the viewer has had time to think about the movie and its premise. The Gift, on the surface, appears to be a brilliant psychological thriller that keeps the viewer engaged right up until the very last minute. But when the initial energy wears off, this movie turns into an incomplete effort at a genre that Alfred Hitchcock could dominate with his eyes closed.

I am going to start off by saying that I recommend that people go see The Gift because, as I said, it gives the appearance of a brilliant movie. The number of “boo” scenes that American movie makers have used to replace real horror are limited and the anxiety the movie creates is very thick. When this movie is done you will say, as I did, that this is a very good movie and you are glad you saw it.

Then you will go home and give the movie some thought and things will change. The Gift is about a former high school bully named Simon (played by Jason Bateman) who has become a successful sales professional and moves back near to his hometown with his wife Robyn (played by Rebecca Hall) to take on a great opportunity. As he and his wife are shopping for items for their new home, Simon meets up with one of his victims from high school named Gordo (played by Joel Edgerton) and Gordo tries to do the adult thing and bury the hatchet. Simon resists and, in the end, his stubborn and juvenile attitude winds up costing him dearly.

The movie weaves in and out of a stack of emotions that really draws the viewer in. The effective use of dramatic tension really puts the audience on pins and needles for the entire movie. But as the movie goes along, it becomes apparent that we have multiple villains in this movie and only one real victim. The movie wants us to feel like Simon got what was coming to him and Gordo got the proper revenge, but we really do not feel that way. Instead, we feel really sorry for Robyn, who winds up being used by both Simon and Gordo as a pawn in their game of revenge.

While the movie does not appear to mean it, there is a strong sense of objectifying women that made me pretty uncomfortable. You really do wind up pulling for Robyn towards the end of the movie, but that sensation of vindication is never achieved and the movie just…ends.

I was hesitant about Jason Bateman playing a serious and dramatic role, but he was brilliant. Joel Edgerton plays the bullied victim, and he also directed this movie. I will say that for a first crack at directing a full-length feature film, Edgerton did a fantastic job. The movie’s look and feel adjusts perfectly to fit the story and the movie is just dripping with emotion.

But I think that Edgerton needs to work more on his screenplay writing if he is going to find real commercial success in Hollywood. While the ending was effective, it also had elements that made it feel shallow. For example, Gordo gives Simon a video of Gordo possibly assaulting Robyn while she was unconscious as part of Gordo’s revenge. Well, if the assault was real, then the proof is in Simon’s hands. Simon is still a bully at the end and, since Gordo basically destroyed Simon’s life, it would be too easy for Simon to strike back by putting Gordo in jail for rape.

There are a few more factors in that ending I did not mention to avoid ruining the movie, but you will understand when you see it. It seems like Edgerton dotted his I’s in this movie, but he forgot to cross all of his T’s.

Despite the bad aftertaste this movie leaves, I still consider it a good movie and one that you should get out to see at the drive-in before it is replaced with something else. Jason Bateman’s performance alone is worth the price of a drive-in ticket which, as we all know, is not nearly as much as the cost of a hardtop theater ticket.

Rating: 2 out of 5

+George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who encourages everyone to get out to the drive-in before the season winds down. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him an email at Follow the conversation about this movie and others at .)

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