The Gift (2015 American film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Edgerton|
|Written by||Joel Edgerton|
|Edited by||Luke Doolan|
|Distributed by||STX Entertainment|
|Box office||$59 million|
The Gift is a 2015 American-Australian psychological horror-thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by Joel Edgerton in his feature directorial debut, and co-produced by Jason Blum and Rebecca Yeldham. The film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a couple intimidated by a figure from Bateman's past played by Edgerton.
It was released in the United States on August 7, 2015, as the first film released by STX Entertainment. The film grossed $59 million worldwide on a budget of $5 million and received positive reviews from critics, who praised Edgerton's direction and screenplay, as well as Bateman's performance.
A married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn Callem (Rebecca Hall), relocate from Chicago to a Los Angeles suburb after Simon takes a new job. While out shopping, they run into Gordon "Gordo" Moseley (Joel Edgerton), Simon's former high school classmate. Gordo begins repeatedly dropping in unannounced and delivering gifts, such as expensive bottles of wine and a group of koi for their pond. His presence makes Simon tense and uncomfortable, but Robyn sees no problem.
Gordo invites Simon and Robyn and another couple to his large, elegant home, but when Simon and Robyn arrive, Gordo tells them that the other couple has cancelled. Gordo exits abruptly to deal with a work problem, leaving the Callems alone in his house and making Simon more suspicious. When Gordo returns, Simon tells Gordo to stay away from them.
The next day, Robyn finds the koi dead and their dog missing. When Simon drives to Gordo's house to confront him, he discovers the home actually belongs to another couple. In the days following, Robyn begins to suspect that she is not alone in the house while Simon is at work, finding faucets on and hearing footsteps moving around her. Unable to sleep, she steals prescription pills from her friend and neighbor Lucy (Allison Tolman).
That night, the dog suddenly returns, and Robyn finds a formal letter of apology from Gordo in the mail. The message ends with a note to Simon that says Gordo is "willing to let bygones be bygones" in regards to an event from years prior. When Robyn confronts him about the mysterious phrase, Simon claims he does not know what it refers to.
After a well-received meeting with the CEOs of his company, Simon asks his boss about a promotion and is told that his only competition is his coworker Danny McDonald. Meanwhile, Robyn's increasing paranoia while home alone causes her to faint. She wakes up in her bed the next morning and finds Simon in the kitchen with her stolen pills, which we discover was a struggle for Robyn back in Chicago. She asks Simon to help with her anxiety by making peace with Gordo, but he assures her Gordo is gone, telling her the pills are making her paranoid.
After some time, life improves and Robyn becomes pregnant. While out shopping, however, she sees Gordo watching from outside the shop. At her baby shower, Simon's sister tells her that, back in high school, Simon and his friend Greg (David Denman) reported that Gordo had been molested by an older boy, which led to Gordo getting bullied and transferring schools. Robyn later searches Simon's office and discovers that he has run background checks on Danny McDonald and Gordo, who has spent his life in and out of prison.
Robyn seeks out Greg, who reveals the molestation story was fabricated by Simon, calling him a bully with a "real mean streak." Greg also reveals that, as a result of the false report, Gordo's father thought Gordo was gay and tried to burn him alive, leading to his father's arrest for attempted murder and Gordo being sent away to military school. When Robyn asks why Simon would have done such a thing, Greg replies, "because he could."
Robyn confronts Simon about Gordo, but he denies responsibility, blaming Robyn's suggestions of reconciliation on her own past traumas of being bullied at school. However, at Robyn's behest, Simon tracks down Gordo and half-heartedly apologizes. Gordo does not accept, knowing Simon is insincere, and he warns Simon that the past is not done with him yet. Furious, Simon attacks and threatens Gordo. Back at home, Simon lies to Robyn, saying that Gordo accepted his apology.
Simon is promoted at his job, but at his celebration party, Danny McDonald hurls rocks at Simon's house and shatters a window. He accuses Simon of fabricating information and ruining his career in order to get the promotion. After Danny is allowed to flee, Robyn goes into labor and gives birth to a boy at the hospital. The next morning, Simon is fired for lying about McDonald, and Robyn tells him that she wants to separate.
Simon returns home to find another gift box on the front porch, which holds a bassinet containing three small packages, consisting of a key to their house, an audio recording of Simon and Robyn making fun of Gordo while they were left alone at Gordo's "house", and footage shot from inside Simon and Robyn's home that shows Gordo standing over Robyn when she had fainted earlier, seemingly about to sexually assault her. Gordo records himself wearing the mask of a monkey (a lifelong fear for Simon) as he touches an unconscious Robyn on their bed, before the camera cuts away.
At the same time, Gordo visits Robyn at the hospital to congratulate her with a bandaged eye and his arm in a sling. He tells her that Simon caused his injuries. Simon rushes to the hospital but just misses Gordo, who smirks at him as the elevator doors close and then disappears. Gordo calls Simon soon after to taunt him, refusing to confirm or deny whether or not he raped Robyn and fathered the baby, just as Simon refused to come clean about the molestation story all those years before. Simon finds Robyn and the baby in the hospital nursery, but she refuses to see him.
With his marriage over and his career destroyed, Simon breaks down as Gordo watches through a window and walks away, tossing away the sling from his arm.
- Jason Bateman as Simon Callem
- Rebecca Hall as Robyn Callem
- Joel Edgerton as Gordon "Gordo" Mosley
- Tim Griffin as Kevin "KK" Keelor
- Allison Tolman as Lucy
- Beau Knapp as Detective Walker
- P.J. Byrne as Danny McDonald
- David Denman as Greg Pierson
- Busy Philipps as Duffy
- Wendell Pierce as Detective Mills
- Katie Aselton as Joan Callem
- Mirrah Foulkes as Wendy Dale
- Nash Edgerton as Frank Dale
The project was announced in August 2012, when it was reported that Joel Edgerton had written a psychological thriller script titled Weirdo, with which Edgerton would also be making his directing debut. His inspirations for the screenplay included Alfred Hitchcock, Fatal Attraction and Michael Haneke's 2005 French film Caché, as well as Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy.
Principal photography began on January 19, 2015, and ended on February 20, 2015. A majority of filming took place at a home in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood, where STX Entertainment also held promotional interviews for the film.
The film was shot on an Arri Alexa with Canon K35 lenses, and was filmed in 25 days, according to its cinematographer, Eduard Grau. Grau was recommended by Nash Edgerton, who served as the film's stunt coordinator, after the two were part of the production for the 2013 short film Streetcar.
In an interview with Collider, Edgerton revealed that he did not start filming his acting role until two weeks into shooting (devoting that time, instead, solely to directing). As soon as he did, his older brother Nash assisted on set behind the camera. Edgerton completed shooting his role as Gordo in seven days.
The first trailer was released on April 1, 2015. It premiered on Twitter's live video streaming app Periscope, making STX Entertainment the first advertiser to work with Twitter on a campaign incorporating Periscope.
The Gift grossed $43.8 million in North America and $15.2 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $59 million, against a budget of $5 million.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $11.9 million, finishing third at the box office behind Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($28.5 million) and fellow newcomer Fantastic Four ($25.7 million).
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 91%, based on 194 reviews, with an average rating of 7.50/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Gift is wickedly smart and playfully subversive, challenging the audience's expectations while leaving them leaning on the edges of their seats." Metacritic gives the film a score of 77 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Time Out's Daisy Bowie-Sell praised The Gift as "darkly unnerving", commending its ending and comparing it positively to a similar film, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. In a review for Indiewire, Katie Walsh lamented the film's use of common thriller cliches and restraint towards the climax, but lauded Joel Edgerton's direction, concluding: "His deft, controlled maneuvering of plot, character, style, and tone is damn near perfect for his feature debut—even if it is in service of a very standard genre piece."
Critics also praised Bateman, known for portraying the “straight man” in comedies, for playing against type as the mean-spirited Simon. RogerEbert.com’s Sheila O’Malley wrote that Bateman gives a “beautiful and focused performance” as someone who is “kindly and condescending, sometimes in the same moment”. Collider's Matt Goldberg commented that, while the film “almost goes too far in making [Simon] a sociopath”, Bateman's charisma worked for the character: “What makes Bateman inherently likable gives Simon a lot of his power, and it’s a memorable performance as we despise the character but also wonder if he deserves vicious comeuppance for what he did to Gordo.” Slate's Keith Phipps wrote that “Bateman plays Simon with the easy charm and everyman approachability of past roles,” but “pushes the charm into smarm and the approachability into sleaze.”
|Sitges Film Festival||Best Actor||Joel Edgerton||Won|||
|Fangoria Chainsaw Awards||Best Supporting Actor|||
|Best Wide-Release Film||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||First-Time Feature Film Director|||
|Central Ohio Film Critics Association||Breakthrough Film Artist (for producing, directing and screenwriting)|||
|Best Overlooked Film||Runner-up|||
|Empire Awards||Best Thriller||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Thriller Film||Nominated|||
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