The Gift got lost in the shuffle before TIFF earlier this year. I had heard increasingly great things about the average-looking thriller, and finally found some time to see it at the end of the summer. And now I regret not encouraging more people to check it out too. From the moment the film starts, it is anything but average.
Joel Edgerton (who was terrific in the under appreciated Black Mass) writes, directs and stars in this suspenseful gem that starts off akin to Fatal Attraction, before becoming its own scary thing entirely. It is easily one of the most unsettling films I have seen all year. It is the rare film that feels creepy and leaves you disturbed long after its twisty finale. The camera lingers too long on some moments, and adds some genuine horror to others. You expect some flaws from a first-time director, but Edgerton is a pro and makes you feel every range of emotion possible over the course of The Gift‘s lean 110-minute running time. Not one moment feels wasted, and it never really slows down. Edgerton is great in his supporting role, and Rebecca Hall is even better.
But the real standout is Jason Bateman. He plays the slimy prick character he has nearly perfected since Arrested Development, but he is completely devoid of all comedy here. And Edgerton taps into that archetype and turns it on its head, giving us what might be the best performance of Bateman’s career (Teen Wolf Too notwithstanding). It just feels so natural and brings a dramatic gravitas that you would have never expected from him. What easily could have been phoned in turns into a perception altering game changer. I have long waited for him to try something different, and hope he continues to be more daring in his future roles.