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Nobody likes a bully.
Especially a past victim
with a long memory.
Figuring out who s
the bully and who s the
victim is part of the
mystery in The Gift, a
debut from writer, pro-
ducer and star Joel
Edgerton. While it
doesn t break any new
ground, the first feature
from new studio STX
as the kind of unsettling
that could inspire one
to double-check the
locks on the front door.
Simon (Jason Bate-
man) and wife Robyn
(Rebecca Hall) just relo-
cated from Chicago to a picture-per-
fect house in his hometown of Los
Angeles, where he has a great new
job and an impending promotion.
Simon insists his wife not start work-
ing right away so they can focus on
starting a family.
While out shopping, the couple
bumps into Simon s old high school
classmate, Gordo (Edgerton). Shy and
awkward, he re-introduces himself
to Simon, who didn t recognise him.
They exchange pleasantries and
innocuously part ways.
Suddenly, a bottle of wine appears
on the couple s doorstep, a gift from
Gordo, though they hadn t given him
their address. Then he pops by unan-
nounced, ostensibly to be helpful.
More spontaneous gifts follow---he
fills their pond with koi---along with
a dinner invitation.
To Robyn, Gordo seems lonely. To
Simon, he seems delusional. He
remembers they called him Weirdo
back in high school.
When Simon insists they cut ties,
Gordo responds with an ominous ref-
erence to their shared history, which
inspires Robyn to examine what hap-
pened between them as teenagers.
She becomes the
protagonist in the film s
second half, an amateur
her husband s past. The
more she discovers, the
more she distrusts him.
Gordo doesn t seem so
Along the way there s
a pond of dead fish, a
disappearing dog and a
scary shower sequence;
nerves ratcheted to the
max for each by Danny
Bensi and Saunder Jur-
Edgerton s film plays
as homage to the pol-
ished, stylsed thrillers
of the 1980s and 90s,
when things went bad
for Yuppies. It s even set close to the
period, as evidenced by characters
reliance on landlines and CDs.
The sprawling, glass-walled, pond-
fronted house Robyn and Simon live
in is so gorgeously aspirational, it s
practically a character in the film, an
ever-present symbol of wealth and
promise. Gordo s class envy shows
when he tries to outshine their home
with his own.
Edgerton keeps his screenplay time-
ly by using bullying as a backdrop,
imagining what happens to teenage
tormentors and their targets years
later. He also draws a modern wife
who s equally empowered to stand
on her own.
The three leads make their per-
formances look effortless, a credit to
Edgerton s direction. He s eerily on
point as a quiet lurker with a men-
acing side. Hall is commanding as a
confident yet vulnerable wife, con-
flicted about the man she married.
Bateman deliciously plays against type
as a manipulative, back-slapping
executive who will step on anyone to
The Gift takes a leap at its conclu-
sion that s a little hard to believe, but
Edgerton makes deft directing debut with The Gift
it doesn t undo the story s main theme, which
Gordo might creepily sum up as "what happens
when you poison other people s minds with ideas."
Like it might be a good idea to check the locks.
• MOVIE INFO: The Gift, a STX Entertainment
release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association
of America for language. Running time: 108 minutes.
Two and a half stars out of four.
from left, Jason
Bateman and Joel
Edgerton, in a scene
from the film, The
Gift. AP PHOTO
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