As the credits roll, I am once again reminded that fear comes in many forms. This weeks session certainly had its scares (and not in the traditional way) with The Gift (2015). Written, directed and acted, Joel Edgerton (acting roles include Warrior, Black Mass, The Great Gatsby and Zero Dark Thirty) pulls you along on a journey that keeps you guessing, especially regarding what the gift in the movie is. Though there has been a lot of buzz around the film, I decided not to read any reviews and rent it on Redbox, not entirely sure if it was going to live up to the hype.
Admittedly, I was skeptical about Jason Bateman’s role of Simon, a manipulative egomaniac who couldn’t tell the truth if it bit him in the ass. Of course his behavior is how he’s gotten so far in life, and also could be what’s led to his wife’s emotional ailment. Either way, he did fantastic job playing a jerk who begins as the protagonist and quickly is a villain. However he is not the only one. In the midst of this bizarre plot is Rebecca Hall’s character Robyn (The Town, Transcendence) who bares the internal anguish of the people she has surrounded herself with.
Simon (Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Hall) move to the suburbs to start over after what is suggested, Robyn’s meltdown and abuse of prescription drugs, in addition to a miscarriage. As her husband is rising the ranks in his own career, Robyn spends time redecorating their new home, keeping clean. Upon arrival, Simon runs into an old school friend named Gordo (Edgerton), who’s helpful behavior leaves Simon annoyed and creeped out and Robyn slightly uncomfortable at best. When the behavior continues, a confrontation occurs and then the slow wheels of fear begin to move until the shocking and unsettling end unfolds.
There are plenty of films that use stalking and the presence of ‘weird’ stranger to create fear–it’s understandable because the instance is probable, but what Edgerton has done goes beyond that. As always, if you would like to stop here and watch the film, then do so. I recommend it and you can come back to read the remainder of this post. Here’s a trailer of the film–it may sway you to a decision.
As Robyn glances at the red envelope, knowing all too well that post-confrontation, it’s Gordo, there is this moment of anxiety that viewer feels. What is in the envelop? A letter, obviously. Inside the letter is the simple lines of a man who previously invited them to his mansion (not actually his) and wanted to apologize for keeping secrets. Except he ends it with a curious line, one that isn’t clear to Robyn or even Simon, about letting bygones be bygones. As Simon denies the meaning, and he plays it off well, Robyn can’t help but itch the wound.
What she finds out is disturbing. From asking Simon’s sister, she discovers Gordo was saved by Simon and one of his friends back in grade school while an older boy was molesting him in a car. This turns out to be false but not without Robyn thinking the other boy molesting Gordo was in fact Simon. I’ll admit, the way Bateman portrays Simon, it seemed possible.
Simon did not molest anyone – in fact the entire story was fabricated by Simon, which in turn ruined Gordo’s life. So as Simon and his wife try to live in the glass house they built (literally), it’s only befitting a stone is thrown and the couple are pulled apart.
If you truly plan to see this–do not read any further.
THE NERVE-RACKING ENDING
Robyn sympathizes with Gordo because she sees her husband as the bully he truly is, and which in the edge the audience witnesses. So in the final moments of the film, (Robyn btw finally got pregnant and just gave birth to their son) Robyn tells Simon she doesn’t want to go back home with him, that essentially it is over. He doesn’t accept that, he can’t because he’s a narcissist and liar and can’t help but manipulate everyone around him to keep the status quo in his favor. When Simon goes home while Robyn rests in the hospital, he is met by a gift.
The gift in fact.
Simon opens the gift. It’s a baby gift (to carry a child–I don’t know, I’m not good with baby items) and inside are three more gifts. The first is a key to their front door. The second is an audio of Simon talking poorly about Gordo with his wife. The third is surveillance of them from outside the house and eventually in…where he spikes Robyn’s Gatorade…and films touching her, but not the final act. Simon is destroyed by this and rushes back to the hospital. The roles reverse because as Simon remained quiet about what destroyed Gordo’s life 20 years earlier, he wouldn’t say whether or not that he raped Robyn and the child she just gave birth to was Simon’s or his.
One could argue that Simon could get a DNA test and it would be settled but the point isn’t the mental anguish caused to Simon that is well deserved. Besides, a DNA test would have to reveal to his fragile wife (who already wants to leave him) to completely fall apart. Thus Simon is left in the in-between, losing everything and at the mercy of someone he wronged. The Gift made Fighting Friday because of the sheer well-written script and performance that keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s creepy and unnerving and you will never look at a gift the same way again.