The Gift Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton. Directed by Joel Edgerton. Rated R. Opens Friday.
Before becoming a rising Hollywood star, Joel Edgerton worked with his brother Nash in their native Australia on the delightfully nasty 2008 thriller The Square, which Joel wrote and produced and starred in (Nash directed). Now thanks to his growing Hollywood clout, Edgerton has recruited Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall to star in his own directorial debut, The Gift, another suspenseful thriller with a black heart. It starts out along the lines of a Lifetime movie, albeit one with style and grace, as married couple Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) run into Gordo (Edgerton), a creepy loner who went to high school with Simon and appears way too eager to befriend the couple.
But Gordo doesn’t turn out to be a typical stalker, and he actually disappears for much of the movie’s second half, allowing the tension he engendered to slowly tear apart the couple’s seemingly happy relationship. Edgerton effectively explores the ways that casually manipulative men like Simon can demean and dismiss women under the guise of protecting them, and he subverts expectations of who exactly is the villain in this story. Unfortunately, he then succumbs to a cheap, sensationalistic twist ending, but while that undermines some of the thematic effectiveness, it doesn’t ruin the elegance of the story leading up to it.