'The Gift' Treats Its Audience With Respect
The Gift is a totally satisfying movie that shifts between psychological crime thriller and psychological horror thriller, without losing suspense and fascination, and without resorting to gore or easy jump-out-of-the-dark cliches.
It starts with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall moving to California to start a new life and meeting Bateman's old schoolmate Joel Edgerton, who seems at first to be just lonely and very friendly, and then starts to seem a little kinky, and questions about his kinkiness lead to suspicions about Bateman and even suspicions about Hall, who may not be an altogether reliable witness.
The story is shown mostly from Hall's point of view, and however you interpret it, she's the one who knows the least, so we never learn much, either. And our curiosity mounts, the way it is supposed to in mystery and horror stories. But everything is just hints and suspicions. It could be that this is just a story of what can happen when rumor goes wild and nobody is willing to get after the facts.
Edgerton is both writer and director as well as star, and he does all his jobs well. Nobody overacts or goes flat, and the shifts of suspicion from one character to another make familiar elements come across as new. All three characters grow stronger and clearer through their reactions to the central mystery of what really happened 20 years ago, if indeed anything really happened at all.
The ending is quite logical, but unconventional enough that not everybody is going to like it. But, like everything else in The Gift, it won't insult your intelligence.