This Psychological Thrill Ride Is a 'Gift'

Critics applaud Joel Edgerton's directorial debut, as well as his acting
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2015 1:06 PM CDT

A married couple played by Jason Bateman (Simon) and Rebecca Hall (Robin) move from Chicago to LA where they re-encounter a high school acquaintance who lavishes them with housewarming presents and tries to work his way into their lives in The Gift. It's a twisted thriller from first-time director and star Joel Edgerton (Gordo), and critics are pretty pleased:

  • "It's a given that 'bygones' will rear their ugly head here and will not go unpunished. But how, why, and by whom—that is what lends Edgerton's script its power and fascination," writes Gary Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times. "To divulge much more might spoil a superior film" he calls "a disturbing drama that twists its outsider-from-hell story into something more unique and unexpected than its marketing campaign might imply."
  • Peter Keough at the Boston Globe says casting himself "is one of many good choices (Edgerton) makes in this expertly crafted exercise in guilt, ambiguity, and revenge." As an actor, Edgerton "has a knack for making malice look lovable," and puts that skill to work here. He also makes a good choice in having much of the point of view be Robin's, "since like the audience she doesn't know about Simon and Gordo's past."

  • "One of the many gifts conferred by The Gift is the unaccustomed pleasure of feeling like putty in the hands of a first-rate storyteller," writes Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. The film—"ultimately about character, and truth, and not knowing who people are until they're forced to reveal themselves"—is both stylish and thrilling, he writes. He applauds all three stars, plus the film's sound design and cinematography.
  • Sara Stewart at the New York Post says the flick is a "nerve-racking surprise" as Edgerton "manages to yank the carpet out from under his audience a couple of times." She says she was a fan right up until the end, but then the story went sour. She argues the finale "is so cheap and ugly, it nearly undoes everything good that came before it."
(More Jason Bateman stories.)

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