Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Strange Review: The Gift

Good Gravy was this a damn good movie! I happened on this little gem when I caught the trailer when trying to watch a video on Youtube and two things stuck out to me: 1) Jason Bateman was FINALLY in a serious drama and I've ALWAYS said Jason Bateman would be AWESOME in a serious drama (Newsflash, he kicks ALL kinds of ass in this) and 2) From what I gleamed from the trailer this was gonna be one of those REAL thrillers, a real slow burn that when it gets there IT F*CKIN' GETS THERE! Well, this movie F*CKIN' GETS THERE and it gets there HARD! Quick summary, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall plays Simon & Robyn Callum, a couple who just moved to Los Angeles to start over and because of Simon's new job. While out buying stuff for the house, Simon runs into Gordon a.k.a Gordo played by the film's writer and director Joel Edgerton.

Upon meeting Gordo, Simon has no clue who he is, but starts to remember, with some coaxing that Gordo is someone Simon knew back in high school. Gordo is a kind of social awkward guy and he starts bringing gifts over to Simon's house and showing up uninvited. After awhile, it becomes clear that there's more to the story than just a few gifts. That's ALL I can say without spoiling anything! Honestly, this is the kind of movie I adore! Once again another CHARACTER driven story that doesn't require big budgets and CGI, NOPE, just great characters and a good story. Everyone brings their A Game here and it shows.  Jason Bateman, who normally plays the social awkward guy is AMAZING here. This whole movie is GREAT from start to finish. Honestly, if you like slow burning thrillers that don't turn into sh*t by the 3rd act, you'll LOVE this. Can't recommend it enough! Okay, on to some spoilers!

Wow, okay. So welcome to the spoiler section, if you haven't seen "The Gift", I am VERY disappointed in you and if you have then you deserve a sugary treat of your choosing, either way, welcome! There are quite a few movies out there about bullying and A LOT of them suck. Most of them are preachy over the top "Made For TV" after-school specials that reek of trying to get a message across that bullying is bad, and the others are either comedies and suddenly become horror movies written by nerds with revenge fantasies. Movies about bullying are all so paint-by-numbers, Bully mocks Protagonist, Protagonist is ostracized, Protagonist does something drastic like attempts suicide or emotionally shuts down, something bad happens, the Protagonists realizes their self-worth and stands up to the Bully. Also the Bully is showcased as being an Obvious Bully.

"The Gift" does something different, it takes The Bully and makes him the central character, of course we don't really know he's a bully and that's the fun of it. The great thing about Jason Bateman is the guy plays good harmless. Jason Bateman is his career as played a slew of social awkward characters with snark and dry-wit as their defense mechanism, essentially Jason Bateman is Chandler Bing Lite. So when we see Jason Bateman, we immediately think snarky guy but ultimately harmless. So when the movie starts to unravel his douchebaggery it comes off as truly distasteful because it goes from being snark to REALLY mean-spirited and I don't think that couldn't have been achieved WITHOUT someone like Jason Bateman in the lead role.

So for those of you who haven't seen "The Gift" (animals that you are) let me shed some light; Simon spread a rumor that Gordo was molested by an older boy and he essentially outed Gordo as gay. With such a serious issue as molestation, Gordo faced some heavy backlash and Simon never admitted it was a lie. Gordo's life pretty much got up-ended, his father attempted to kill him and a few other things happened, none of them good. How this information unravels is really well done, granted we get the exposition dump eventually but not after some serious digging. Also, it's not exactly about what Simon did, it's more about how he plans to make it right or if he does at all.

Gordo isn't exactly the hero here and that's an important thing to keep in mind, but Simon isn't the victim here either, both characters are in a morally grey area, but ultimately Simon could have avoided this had he just apologized to Gordo and really attempted to accept him as a friend. Granted, Gordo's constant uninvited gifts were unsettling and awkward but Gordo appears to be EXTREMELY socially awkward, maybe even slightly autistic and you add to that the trauma of his past, it's clear that Gordo hasn't spent a lot of time around other people. But I genuinely think he really meant well with the gifts.

I like Simon's wife and while their interplay wasn't given much (Robyn's drug problem wasn't really addressed as thoroughly as it could have been), seeing the way Simon subtle mocks her was well played and would almost be missed to the untrained eye, but you can catch Robyn's disapproving glances and gestures once Simon starts being distasteful. She's handled the realization that her husband is a total asshole with complete realism, not entirely spiraling out of control and not completely having the dragged out shouting match, but carefully and slowly. You can see with every new bit of information, with every lie she's slowly deciding what to do and if she believes what she's hearing.

A film this careful couldn't have been released by any major studio (no insult to Blumhouse) but a major studio would've upped the budget by 50 million and the final gift would have been Robyn's head or some such nonsense. No. A film like this needs to really reveal it's self. Almost like "Oldboy" where the end of the film paints everything in a different light. Personally, I don't think Gordo did it. He genuinely liked Robyn and I just don't see him raping her, re-dressing her and leaving her on the floor, not without some OBVIOUS evidence. But the idea was solid and the question will ALWAYS been in Simon's head. Ultimately, he had to get the divorce if not for Robyn's sake, then his own.

Undeniably my favorite has to be Simon's "apology". Jason Bateman REALLY brings out his darkness and takes the character of Simon to a REALLY dark place. Bateman's natural snark already showcased his inability to appear humble but his acting skills showcased his complete insincerity about what he was saying. The fact that it ends with Simon assaulting Gordo is priceless, typical bully behavior and Bateman played it very well. Joel Edgerton also played timid very well as well. Although being a grown man, you can tell Gordo is still apprehensive around Simon. Again, I'm running with the theory that Gordo is slightly autistic and is already social awkward, add a physical confrontation onto that and well...this is what you get.

Gordo removing the arm brace, not sure what that means. Maybe he did plan it, maybe he didn't. Maybe he used it as a cover just to gain access to the hospital, who knows? I could've done without it, if the film had just ended with him turning and walking away, we could have gleamed from it that his work was done and he was pulling his Keyser Soze, but with the added twist of the arm brace leaves me to wonder just how much of what he did was calculated? Obviously he planned quite a bit and I have to give myself a pat on the back for immediately thinking that the house was bugged. I suppose he did that to 1) get an idea of Simon's greatest fear, someone sleeping with his wife & 2) see if Simon had changed at all and from then on proceed to make everything seem as if Simon's fears had been realized. Hence why I think Gordo didn't do it.

Also in retrospect, Simon's issue really isn't all that bad. Despite losing his job in the end (there's a subplot that Simon may have fabricated some lies about another employee at his job to gain a promotion) Simon is still a pretty well off guy and a DNA test in this day and age isn't entirely expensive or difficult. Also if Simon did indeed get the DNA test done, Gordo's looking at a very serious rape charge and ultimately Simon'll win. Granted, this is bringing in some real life consequences and in hindsight it does hinder the ending's impact, but the point Gordo made was pretty clear.

Guys, this movie was a BLAST, the acting was great, the story was great and it was just top-notch. My only complaint is that I'd have liked a bit more of Robyn's drug problem in there just to flesh her out a bit more but in the grand scheme of things, that's VERY minor. Check out "The Gift" if you haven't seen it already! That'll do it for me, gang! I'll catch you next time!

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