Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: The Gift (2015)

It's time again for Cinema Freaks Live, this time talking about the 2015 thriller The Gift. I'm joined by Colin (The Observer), Michelle and Chris as we all talk about what was good and bad about the movie. I'll also go into it a little bit in this post, as well - just in case any of you are stuck in the soul-sucking 9 to 5 routine in a cubicle somewhere. Also note that there are SPOILERS a lot in this one. Here's the podcast:

Director: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall

The movie is basically about a couple, Simon and Robyn, who move into a new house. They almost immediately run into Gordo, an old buddy of Simon's from college, who starts acting a little weird and overly friendly. He comes over a lot when Robyn is home alone, which starts to get on Simon's nerves. Tensions rise as Simon tries to tell Gordo to back off - but in the process, some secrets about Simon's past are revealed.

The movie is pretty good. It's got a nice visual style to it and the settings don't look like every other thriller out there. The story and atmosphere tend to remind me of early 2000s thrillers, and the acting is pretty solid. I like how you don't really know who to feel sorry for at first, and the murky ambiguity early on makes it an interesting watch. It also doesn't really pander to anyone by throwing in any stupid twists, gore or tits or anything like that - it's just a solid story, written and directed by acting veteran Joel Edgerton - who also plays Gordo, mind you.

The problem is, I don't think Edgerton really knew where he was going with the story. He takes the easy way out too often as the story hurtles toward a conclusion. Characters figure things out too easy, and what was once an ambiguous, shady story becomes a story where both Simon and Gordo are obviously bad, bad guys. You find out Simon was a bully who ruined Gordo's life as a kid - fine. That could be interesting. But then you see he also isn't any different NOW. Now, he's cheating his way into a promotion at his job and lying to everyone - it's just kind of goofy, the way it's done. It doesn't really engage you to the character when there's so little complexity.

Gordo, on the other hand, is a psychopath. He clearly had this planned, or else it made no sense. He met Simon randomly on the street and then had this whole plan to fuck with his head. He breaks into Simon's house later, drugs Robyn and makes a video tape where he may or may not have gotten her pregnant. When they have a kid at the end of the movie, Simon is tormented with guilt that the kid may not be his - it might be Gordo's.

It's all just too over the top. There should have been a more subtle plot - maybe about Robyn seeing Simon's real self and then choosing to side with a more sympathetic Gordo. Or show Simon as a conflicted man who used to be a bully but now is pretty OK, but he's being chased by this vengeful psycho he once bullied. But it doesn't work when they're both just flat out bad guys. It becomes a story talking about how bullies never change and how if you're bullied, you might grow up to be a fucking psychopath. Not exactly a great story.

It wasn't bad, though. As far as directorial debuts go, it was solid. If you like thrillers, you'll find something to like here.

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