Friday, February 01, 2019

California’s The Garden Of Eden-Except For The Odd American Sociopath- “The Gift” (2015)-A Short Film Review

California’s The Garden Of Eden-Except For The Odd American Sociopath- “The Gift” (2015)-A Short Film Review

DVD Review

By Brad Fox, Jr.

The Gift, starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, directed by Edgerton, 2015

I am apparently becoming the resident “expert” on psychological thrillers since this is my third consecutive effort. Not that I mind, everybody in the film critic, film review business including amateurs, those who think anybody can give an opinion about a film and have it stick finds some niche. Finds some safe haven really in this tough racket where you are only as good as your last review. I remember my father the famous New York film reviewer who worked with Pauline Kael and helped turn the work from a pastime to a profession saying not even your last review but the one right in front of the reader. (Now the profession has spawned climatic studies courses where you can get a “major” in film review which has surprised my now retired father no end.) The draw this time, this The Gift is a quirky little number with its fair share of obvious thriller clichés but with enough twists and turns to make it an above average venture.  

Your average thriller usually sets up the demented psycho early, lets him (or less often her) go through his paces getting everybody he comes in contact with a little shaky, shaking their heads anyway. That is the case early on with one Gordo Mosley, Gordo the Wierdo as he was known in high school, played by Joel Edgerton who directed as well, who looks for all the world like a stone-cold killer and A-I psycho. He runs into an old classmate Simon Callem and his wife Robin who have just moved to LaLa land after suffering the colds of Chicago (and some undisclosed problems Robin had, a prescription pill junkie habit best left in the past). Of course, nobody explains as will be revealed why deadbeat, down at the heels Gordo winds up in a high-end interior design shop in LA and just happens to run into the lovely couple picking out pillows or something for their new digs but we will let that pass. Seems Gordo and Simon knew each other in high school and that is the wedge Gordo needs to become a nuisance and somebody that Simon really wants to avoid-at all costs. But like most weirdos, maybe this is a requirement for membership, Gordo has some kind of idea fixed in his head that he will become part of the Simon-Robin circle. And won’t take no for an answer. Simon for his own reasons which will unfold as the film moves along is adamantly against that and makes it plain to Gordo. Robin is a little more forgiving, sees Gordo as a sad sack just like herself.        

Once rebuffed odd things start happening at the Callem homestead and the prime suspect is one Gordo the Weirdo. Once that idea is set in stone, once we are led to believe that Gordo is the bad guy and capable of any kind of madness-even murder the twists start happening. The play then starts to revolve around what big man on campus Simple Simon and a friend did to Gordo back in high school. A classic case of macho man picking up the scent, picking up weaknesses, bullying mercilessly a weaker man. It gets worse-Simon set Gordo up with a lying sack of crap story that wound up getting him a reputation as a gay man. All bullshit, all made up out of thin air. But not without consequences for Gordo Mosely. That brush in turn led him to almost be killed by his father for being gay. He wound up being sent to military school and life went downhill from there for him. All because big man “could do it” according to his accomplice.

As the revelations keep coming out in dribs and drabs Robin gets a totally different look at her husband who turns out to be a bum of the month lying sack of crap. Moreover his savagery is not all in the past. Along the ways this ‘survival of the fittest guy” Simon has set up a co-worker with a false past so that he can move up the food chain to a cushy job. That guy, and not who you would suspect Gordo, went berserk and tried to destroy Simon’s house. While that little diversion was going on the pregnant Robin was ready to give birth which she does. A boy.

Here is where the chickens come home to roost and not in now exposed sociopath Simon’s favor. We know he lied his ass off about that co-worker just to get ahead but when under Robin’s pleadings he goes to apologize to Gordo for his high school craziness which ruined Gordo’s life Gordo refuses to accept the malarkey. Simon then does his patented bully act when things don’t go his way and trashes Gordo. Then things go to hell in handbasket for dear sociopath Simon. Robin after giving birth and realizing that Simon has a very dark side which she had not seen before wants no part of him. His destruction of a fellow worker’s chances gets him the boot from that promotion, gets him fired.  Here is the sweet part in a way Gordo who really was disturbed-how much bully Simon’s fault is pretty clear- Gordo via his stalking Robin and knowing her penchant for prescription drugs is in the home when Robin faints-gets all this on camera-and may or may not have taken advantage of her in that condition. He sends Simon a “gift” of the film of him hovering over Robin leaving the bastard to wonder whether the child Robin bore was his or the madman Gordo’s. Sweet revenge.           

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