Monday, November 2, 2015

Blu-ray/Digital/DVDebut: Joel Edgerton's classy-but-overplotted thriller, THE GIFT

There's hardly a classier or more versatile actress around these days than Rebecca Hall, who, in the just-out-on-home-video thriller THE GIFT, plays a young wife recuperating from a failed pregnancy and movng into a new home in a new town near which her husband went to high school back in the day. When, in the film's second scene, a high-school classmate of her husband makes a surprise appearance as the couple are shopping, the plot of this better-than-average, slow-burning mystery takes off.

As written and directed by Australian triple-threat Joel Edgerton (shown at left), who essays the role of the high school "friend" and also starring the ever-reliable Jason Bateman, The Gift proves highly watchable and full of low-key tension that builds nicely. The questions Who is this guy and what does he really want? crop up immediately and are handled with some finesse, as the more kindly wife (Hall, below) pleads for a little understanding of the poor guy, while her gruffer hubby wants nothing to do with this interloper who keeps bringing the couple unwanted housewarming gifts.

Early on the Edgerton character notes that even a bad gift can have rewarding consequences, and so we wait, expectantly, for those shoes to atart dropping. They do, and in ways somewhat different from most of the movies on view these days. The secrets here rest more on "character" than on actual event, and while we may expect the usual woman-in-distress business, what we get is "sort of" that -- but a lot more. And the final "gift," by the way, is an absolute lulu.

Which brings us to the movie's major problem. It's over-plotted to the point at which it begins to lose some credibility This means that the film's big, final surprise makes it appear that the story was constructed backward, beginning with that surprise, and then having its author try to figure out how to get his characters to that fateful point in time and event. It works on one level, while leaving us less than impressed on another.

Convenience and coincidence abound, never more so than at a late-in-the-film dinner party in which an ill-used person suddenly appears and via a little exposition turns everything topsy-turvy. This is handy, all right, but it is also too much, too easily. Ditto a parking lot beat-down in which there is, as usual, conveniently no one around to notice or stop it.

These are relatively minor offenses (as most mainstream thrillers go), but they add up and deflate to some extent the good chill and good will that the movie has been building. Still, for those viewers looking for more cerebral thrills and less car chases and explosions, The Gift should serve nicely.  

The movie, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and running 109 minutes, hits the street on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital formats tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, for purchase or rental.

No comments: