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“The Gift”: When You Have Left the Past, but the Past Won’t Leave You

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the gift

For those unfamiliar with my movie reviews, I’mma break it down one time: basically my verdicts are whether I think you (my friends) should A. spend money on the movie at a theater B. just Netflix it C. skip it altogether. The Gift starring Justin Bateman and Rebecca Hall lands in the “wait to stream it” category B.

Simon (Justin) and Robyn (Hall) just moved to LA, because Rebecca was going through a rough time while living in Chicago. They are trying to start a family and Simon wants to keep his pill-popping, endlessly-jogging wife out of trouble while he is trying to land THE BIG PROMOTION at some faceless corporate monstrosity. Robyn needed some mental space, too, and the quiet of the suburbs seems like it might be the key. Simon originally hails from LA, and his old acquaintance Gordo (Joel Edgerton) keeps appearing to say hello. Simon does not seem particularly keen on old Gordo, and admits the guy’s high school nickname was “Gordo the Weirdo.” They were OK with the wine he left when they first moved in, but Gordo keeps showing up all the time and giving them gifts. By the time Gordo has given them a pond full of koi fish, they are getting truly weirded out.

I felt like the movie was artfully made, and I was on the edge of my seat for a good part of the movie. I liked the movie as a critique of bland, corporate, heteronormative suburban wasteland they inhabit. I felt Robyn, who is going through emotional issues in this movie, looked like she was suffocating in the environment. Rebecca Hall’s acting really shined as a character with a complicated love for her husband yet sympathy for Gordo, who obviously has boundary issues and fish issues.

I wanted to give this movie a firm thumbs up, since I didn’t find it predictable and it kept me apprehensive the whole time. Unfortunately I just give this is a “check it on Netflix,” since the movie is creepy, but a little too creepy—and I’m saying this as someone who loves horror movies. As a noir, Hitchkockian-style suspense piece, I do think it is well-done, and the acting of the key players skillful.

On a quick tangent, it’s kind of incredible when you think about the longevity of Justin Bateman’s career. If you were around the ’80s you might remember him on “Valerie,” back when his sister Justine was more famous than him. Now he is by far the more famous sibling and become a Hollywood staple with these sort of “every guy” roles he keeps serving so well. Justin better enjoy this as long as it lasts, because I’m fairly his sister and Tina Yothers will reconquer Hollywood in some sort of “Family Ties” piece de resistance at any moment now.

Can I Take the Kids?: I don’t think they’ll be that interested. I did find this movie extremely creepy, so be warned.