A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
In "The Gift," written and directed by actor Joel Edgerton, Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Rebecca Hall) have an awkward reunion dinner with a guy Simon knew from high school, a guy named Gordon (nicknamed "Gordo", played by Edgerton). After it's over, Simon turns to his wife and says, "Did he seem odd to you?" Well, yes. He did. And he gets odder. The odd-ness is hard to define. Is it the flat look in his eyes? Is it the mystery around why he keeps showing up, why he leaves wrapped gifts at the door, why he even wants to strike up a friendship at all, when Simon seems to barely remember the guy? What's Gordo up to? What does he want? One of the intense and disturbing pleasures of "The Gift," why the film creates such a sense of unease, is that the answers to those questions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Edgerton's script is extremely effective: he is interested in what happens between a supposedly happy couple when a third party introduces doubt, insecurity, second-thoughts, into the marriage. It's like an invisible poison released into the atmosphere, working on everyone in unpredictable and terrifying ways. "The Gift" is similar to "Cape Fear," or "Fatal Attraction," or, in another way, "The Night of the Hunter" in that it shows a family unit threatened by an outside force (usually an individual with an ax to grind). "The Gift" is a thriller, with plenty of scare-moments, but the fear unleashed is mainly psychological. The marriage itself is at stake. But why? What is being revealed? What secret is there in the past? Is there even a secret at all?
Simon and Robyn have relocated to California from Chicago because Simon got a swanky corporate job in a security systems company. Robyn is a freelance designer, but dissatisfied with her life in a vague and unspoken way. They're trying to start a family. Simon wants his wife to be happy with whatever she chooses to do. They buy a beautiful house with huge glass windows looking out into the surrounding greenery.
Gordo approaches the couple in the first scene as they shop for housewares, and re-introduces himself to Simon. There's something intense about Gordo's approach, but you can't really put your finger on it. Maybe he's just socially awkward. Robyn, whom her husband describes as a "door always half-open" kind of person, is delighted to meet someone from her husband's past. Pretty quickly though, Gordo becomes a problem. He shows up unannounced while Simon is at work and Robyn is home alone. He leaves gifts at the door, complete with notes ending in a smiley face. He is pushy in a quiet clueless way. Simon wants to get rid of Gordo, once and for all. Robyn gets the feeling that something went on between these two people in the past. She's not getting the whole story.