The band Bowling For Soup has a song entitled “High School Never Ends”– in which the band sings/argues that even when you’re older and hopefully wiser, all the same old high school dynamics are the same. Jocks are still jocks, cheerleaders are still cheerleaders, they’ve just moved on to a new line of work– the attitudes, elitism, snobbishness, bravado and characters of everyone basically phase-shift into their new lives. It never ends… and, while I sort of disagree with this idea (because I think it is a bit of an oversimplification), I do think the idea that people don’t really change at their core has some merit.. at least not without a lot of work and effort.
Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, released this past week, revolves around a seemingly normal power-couple moving back to the husband’s (Jason Bateman) old town only to be tormented by ghosts, figuratively speaking, from his past. We learn than some people don’t change, some people do, and others can never let go.
Simon (played by Bateman) and Robyn (played by Rebeca Hall) Move back to Simon’s old town when a new job opportunity presents itself. They move into a beautiful house in a well-to-do neighborhood and quickly run into a man who appears to be an old high school friend, Gordo (played by Joel Edgerton). After the encounter, Gordo starts coming over to their house unannounced with gifts and the intention of rekindling and old friendship with Simon. Simon finds him creepy and warns his wife that Gordo probably wants to sleep with her.
Gordo seems a bit jittery and a little creepy and overeager but also seems good-natured in his attempts at friendship. He helps Robyn set up their entertainment system, buys them Koi fish for their koi pond and many other gifts. Eventually, Simon decides that the friendship is far too one-sided and weird and threatens Gordo to stay away from his family. Robyn, who has built someone of a bond with Gordo pities him and pleads with Simon to make a mends. Eventually eerie things start to happen, Robyn inexplicably passes out– possibly drugged, their dog goes missing and they feel watched unsafe in their home constantly.
As the film progresses, however, you find out more about Simon’s past and what really happened between him and Gordo. Not everything is what it seems. Simon is hiding a dark secret and Robyn feels increasingly untrusting of her husband and worries that she might not know him at all.
This is just a short synopsis without a whole lot of content– but what follows has spoilers! SO you have been warned!
Alright, so honestly I hadn’t seen much about this film in terms of previews and such, but I was bored one night and decided to see it with my family. I was also running on about 3 hours of sleep and was very groggy during this film so certain parts seemed to drag… this is not an exciting film to be honest… suspenseful yes– but it wont keep you awake with explosions or anything…which i’m fine with….
This film can be broken into a few different chapters: The first chapter would be when the main couple of the film, Simon and Robyn, seem like any other well-to-do couple and you have a vague sense that Gordo is a bit creepy…so we will call that Normal Couple/Creepy Gordo . The second chapter would be when Simon seems well-to-do, but Robyn’s trust in his is faltering and she wants him to be nice to Gordo, and Gordo is still creepy.. we can call chapter two Normal Simon-Untrusting Wife/ Creepy Gordo. The final chapter is when you find out more about Simon’s back story, Robyn is vindicated in her distrust, and Gordo becomes the pseudo-protagonist, we can call the final chapter SimonSays/Gordo’s Revenge. So lets start at chapter one….
Normal Couple/Creepy Gordo
Joel Edgerton, playing Gordo, Wrote, produced, directed and starred in this film…and I have to say, the final film was such a payoff! Bravo Mr. Edgerton.
As I discussed in the synopsis, the first chapter has Robyn and Simon moving to their new house and running into an old friend Gordo. He stops by unannounced and Robyn has him over for dinner. This begins a strong of awkward and forced encounters where Gordo shows up unannounced and the couple feels a bit harassed… well..mostly Simon.
This chapter does a great job of establishing the main couple and making you like them. What is important to note here is that by all outward appearances, they are your everyday couple. Simon works hard at his job and is eager to advance, Robyn is looking to reestablish her own business that she had to leave behind in Chicago. She stays in shape and is excited to have a new home to live in. They seem polite and courteous and approachable.
More importantly, they establish Gordo and shows him being very awkward. Which, when you combine it with his consistent unannounced and somewhat un-welcomed visits, makes him come off like her has some screws loose or like he is a stalker. This notion is reinforced by the every-day-man Simon stating that Gordo is more interested in Robyn and her body than any sort of friendship. An important note here is that Gordo really doesn’t do much wrong during this chapter– everything is left to you imaginations, to your own judgment– but the film does a damn good job in pointing your mental faculties to ones direction: Gordo is weird, Gordo is a psycho, Gordo should leave that nice couple alone!!
Normal Simon-Untrusting Wife/ Creepy Gordo
In this chapter, Gordo is still creepy and he seems to have even escalated… he MIGHT have stolen their dog, he MIGHT have killed their fish and he MIGHT be entering the house and stalking them, we don’t really know for sure… but as an audience– we assume.
Why do we assume? Because prior to that stuff happening, Gordo invites the nice couple to a dinner with some friends. No one shows up but the couple and Gordo and he quickly has to leave for a few minutes for “business”. Upon his return, Simon questions how he is able to afford such a nice house to which Gordo explains that he is going through a tough divorce and is staying in his wife’s house. Simon, even after hearing Gordo’s sob-fest, decides to end their friendship and tells him to stay away from them. Soon after this encounter, their dog goes missing, their fish are dead and they have a general feeling of being unsafe– mostly Robyn.
When they file a police report they find out that the house they had dinner at wasn’t even Gordo’s or his wife. It was a clients house. Gordo is promptly fired– and ends up sending a letter to the couple apologizing and saying that he “really was willing to let bygones be bygones.” Robyn questions the meaning of this last statement and Simon brushes it off– but she knows he is holding back and eventually starts to feel like he isn’t being truthful and that there is a lot more going on.
I do not want to give away everything for the final reveal– lets just say all is revealed and roles are reverse. Simon isn’t the man he appears to be, he is a liar and a cheater (at life) and had played a big hand in ruining Gordo’s life in high school. Worse-still Simon seems unapologetic about it, he claims that it is Gordo’s fault for living in the past and not moving on. Robyn learns that Simon was not only a bully in the past– but quite honestly still a bully in the present.
Ultimately, Gordo becomes the pseudo-protagonist as it is revealed that
Simon might be the bad guy. He sets on a path to revenge that Simon, who is always in control, doesn’t see coming. The past can and will always come back to haunt you, whether or not Gordo is a the protagonist and Simon deserves his fate or is Simon deserves a pass is left up to the audience– there is not a clear answer her, there is only consequences.
I thought the film was amazing! Each cast member did a fantastic job being the person they needed to be at a particular time as there were character shifts and changes in each chapter. I had no idea where the movie would end up or where it was going and it kept be engaged most of the way through (minus sleep deprives me moments).
At the end of the film you end up thinking “wow… all of this is fucked up!”.
You want to hate Jason Bateman’s character, you really do– but at the same time you can help but feel a little bad for his ultimate situation that he ends up in. You will hate Rebeca Hall’s character throughout the movie as she seems way too needy, pushy and untrusting of her husband, only to have all of he disbelief vindicated and want her to ultimately leave Bateman. Finally, Joel Edgerton’s character you want to hate because he is weird and creepy- only to find out why he is the way he is and you find out all of the hardships he went through. You want him to get his own happy ending but are left with the realization that– in this would, there are no happy ending for anyone, Gordo included.
Plot (out of 20 points)
This isn’t just a regular suspenseful thriller where the bad guy ultimately loses or the good guy ultimately dies. It is ambiguous and left up to the interpretation of the viewer. You find yourself disliking and liking each individual at different times and for different reasons. The plot is relatable also, for everyone… Everyone has cheated or told a lie at some point, everyone has felt bullied, been bullied or been the bully, none of the people in the story are out of reach and that’s what makes this thrill-ride and plot so compelling. Would you find yourself in this shoes? to some variation–probably. (20/20)
Characters (out of 20 points)
Isn’t the answer to this one obvious? The characters were dynamic, changing like the wind but in ways that were logical and easy to follow. You can, to some degree, sympathize with everyone in this film, they’re relatable but still have depth. Whats more, is that they were written in such a way that the depth doesn’t feel artificial or alienating to the audience. (20/20)
Acting (out of 20 points)
Joel Edgerton and Bateman might deserve an award for their roles here. They way Bateman is able to switch from every-man to uncompromising bully without batting an eyelash is awesome. And Edgerton pulls of creepy stalker so well that I might have to start looking at the movie Warrior in a different way. For most of the movie you find yourself being somewhat afraid of him and his character while also making excuses for him based on his demeanor. It is like being creeped out by a wounded puppy following you home. You feel uncomfortable because of the puppy’s eyes that are locked on you and you want to run away– but you always want to help the defenseless puppy and you’re not sure which one to choose. (20/20)
Storytelling (out of 30 points)
I loved the way the story was ultimately told and how it can be broken up into distinct shifts, however there were a few slow spots in the film and repetitive scenes. Likes Robyn running and feeling stressed for instance.Or when she is feeling watched– it just seemed like they were trying to force those feeling a bit too hard? Other than that it was done solid! (20/30)
Ad-Campaign (out of 10 points)
The ad-campaign was pretty solid for this film– the trailers peaked my interest as they should have… but the trailers were fairly infrequent as well. However, the trailer also suffers from the fact that it reveals a bit too much about the film… too many trailers to this nowadays… (5/10)
Final Score: 85/100