The 2015 film “The Gift,” starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Edgerton (also the writer, director and producer) kept popping up in my Netflix suggestions based on, I’m assuming, my affinity for psychological thrillers.
It evolves over the course of the film that Bateman’s character Simon and Edgerton’s character Gordo were high school classmates, but they weren’t friends as teenagers. In fact, Simon was a bully, and Gordo finds it necessary to seek revenge, at the expense of Simon and his new family. He starts by leaving gifts that at first seem like kind tokens of “welcome to the neighborhood” and progressively become more sinister.”
The film delves into that “how well do you really know someone?” premise, and because the acting is good and the writing is good, it works.
Simon’s wife Robyn finds out that her husband was a bully and spread a pretty nasty rumor about Gordo, prompting Gordo’s father to try to kill his son and ultimately ruining Gordo’s life. The rumor was absolutely untrue and harmful to the young man’s reputation.
As Simon’s wife Robyn starts investigating his past she finds out some things about her husband that she wishes she didn’t know.
“You’re a bully,” Robyn tells her husband. “You were then, and you still are.”
Turns out that Simon was not only a bully in high school but he also bullied a colleague out of a job in the corporate world as an adult. He’s just an all-around bad person who lies and manipulates and does bad things to people.
It’s hard to see Jason Bateman as a bad guy, when most of his roles have been comedic, but he nails it. He isn’t a scary axe murderer; he’s just a guy who made poor choices and tried to get ahead and dig himself out of holes he created by those bad choices.
And while it’s hard to watch and slightly unbelievable, Edgerton’s character Gordo sets out to ruin the life of his high school rival, which is pretty intense.
Rebecca Hall’s acting is also strong, making this one of those movies that you wonder why no one ever heard of it before.
It didn’t win any Oscars; in fact most people probably haven’t seen it, but if you have a little time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, I’d say go for it.
“The Gift” is now streaming live on Netflix.