*** out of ****
Based on the previews, actor/screenwriter Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift looks like it belongs in the late 80s or early 90s, when a glut of Fatal Attraction ripoffs flooded screens. At first, The Gift seems like another tale of innocent people (married couple Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) whose life is turned upside-down by an unstable former classmate of Bateman’s (Edgerton).
The first half of the film doesn’t tread any new ground, but it covers familiar turf well. Edgerton is just awkward enough to be creepy/unsettling, but seemingly so desperate to be liked by Bateman and Hall that it’s easy to see how Hall feels sorry for him. But eventually, it becomes clear that there’s more to Bateman and Edgerton’s past than meets the eye.
Neither of the two male leads are revealed to be likable, but the escalating battle between the two and Hall’s discovery of increasingly disturbing truths about her husband is compelling. The movie’s less about cheap shocks and thrills than how bullies often don’t mature as they age, they simply become more skilled manipulators.
It’s hard to go into too much more detail without spoiling things, but The Gift is worth seeing and Edgerton, already an actor to watch, proves himself a director to keep an eye on, too.