For Reel

The Gift (2015)
August 16, 2015, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Joel Edgerton
3.5 Stars
The GiftSince his days on Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has excelled at playing an undoubtedly smarmy voice of reason, a man whose exasperation at the world around him provokes his shrinking fuse. He’s a perfect casting choice for the tormented salesman in The Gift. In a comic setting, Bateman’s short temper is the root of his comedy–his condescending reaction shots show that he thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, and yet as the straight man that is often exactly the point. Writer/director Joel Edgerton uses this same persona to a chilling effect in this thriller, where his smugness is a clue to his cutthroat, ruthless attitude. In many scenes, Bateman unloads at Edgerton’s “Gordo”, explaining that he can’t be blamed for his former classmate’s problems and that he has succeeded despite the obstacles placed in his ways. It’s the cruel, indifferent discourse of modern capitalism, the sentiment of, “I created my own success, and it’s your fault that you don’t have your own.” Even as Edgerton plays the stalker that brings The Gift its thrills, Bateman’s performance slyly becomes the most terrifying when his wife, played by the terrific Rebecca Hall, begins to understand that her husband is not the man that she thought he was. As for the final twist, it is memorable but frankly irresponsible. Nonetheless, The Gift is a thoughtful consideration of how the past shapes us, and Edgerton effectively creates suspense using slow camera movements that escalate the sense of dread.