Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Gift [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Gift [2015] (written and directed by Joel Edgerton) is a psychological thriller whose catch phrase could be the saying: "You may be done with the past, but the past may not be done with you..."

A late 30s / early 40-something couple, Simon and Robyn (played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), return back to Southern California (where Simon had grown up) after some 20 years.  After a miscarriage and some other stressors (some becoming clear, others not particularly so) back in Chicago where the couple had previously lived, using some past connections, Simon, an "Type-A" personality sort of a guy, landed himself a very good job with a Los Angeles based computer security firm, where his quite impressed buddy / boss Kevin 'KK' Keelor (played by Tim Griffen) was promising him rapid advancement.  Mission accomplished / (not entirely clear) problem solved.  Or ... was it?

In the first scene of the film as recently returned to L.A. Simon and Robyn are shopping for housewares, they run into Gordo (played by Joel Edgerton), Simon's age, indeed, as we find out, Simon's former high school classmate.

The encounter is decidedly one-sided.   Simon does not appear to even see Gordo much less recognize him initially.  It's Gordo, who immediately strikes one as 'a bit off' in a 'beaten down by life' sort of way who recognizes Simon and comes up to him: "Hi Simon!  Don't ... you recognize me?  Gordo, from High School.  Can't believe you don't recognize me.  What you doing back in Southern California after ALL THESE YEARS?"

Simon tries to be calmly dismissive and end the encounter quickly, but ... Robyn comes by and Simon still (pretending to be?) unsure of who exactly Gordo is, has to take Gordo for his word and introduce him to Robyn as 'someone' from his old high school.  Gordo tries to get the two's phone number which Simon tries to play-to-an-out (NOT give it to him ...).  So Gordo gives his to them.  "Hey, we gotta get together ..." "Yea, sure, yea..."  Simon is _really happy_ that eventually Gordo leaves them to do whatever they were going, yes, shopping ... and that was that ...

... 'Cept, Gordo shows up at their house a few days later.  "Hey, Simon NICE HOUSE!" WTF, how'd he find it?  Unclear. "Thanks."

Gordo's bearing _a gift_.  A bottle of wine or whatever.  "Thanks!  You shouldn't have (you really shouldn't have...)."  Robyn who kinda likes Gordo's 'puppy dog'-like behavior asks him to "come on in."  Simon's signaling NO! NO! NO! ... But it's too late ... Sooo.... 'sad eyed' Gordo's soon sitting at the kitchen table and some pleasant if quite unwanted (certainly from Simon's perspective) conversation follows.

Who is this Gordo?  Why is he there?  Why does he come by?  Each time he comes by, he comes bearing a gift.  He seems like 'a nice guy' he's clearly-'off'.  And it's ALSO absolutely clear that Simon really doesn't like him.  Why? 

Any number of scenarios come to mind as one tries to guess how the story will proceed.  To it's credit, the story spun here does keep one guessing.  Who is this Gordo?  Why is he so (if vaguely) 'messed up'?  Who is Simon?  Why does he hate the guy so much?  Who indeed is Robyn?  Why did they have to leave Chicago?  And if there were 'problems' why exactly did they 'stay together' (but also _move_ to L.A.)?

All in all, the film becomes an exploration of the phrase: "You may be done with the past, but the past may not be done with you."  It becomes clear that all three seem to be fighting demons from the past.  But what demons and why?

Altogether, it's not a badly spun tale ;-)

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