Saturday, August 15, 2015
"The Gift": thriller about a ghost from a man's past does show some parallels to my own life and writing
“The Gift” is lower keyed and more subtle than a lot of “family secret” thrillers, and delves into some stuff closer to my own life and writing. Australian actor Joel Edgerton directs, and plays the now middle aged Gordo, a troubled man, tending to cling to others and with a history of victimization in the past.
Gordo looks a lot like Simon (Jason Bateman), the aggressive security software marketing executive who is buying a big house in the “Valley” (LA) with his still childless and geeky wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). Gordo speaks up when running into Simon at a grocery checkout line, as Simon at first says he doesn’t recognize or remember him from middle school days a quarter century earlier.
Gordo starts making unannounced visits with little gifts, including times when Robyn is home alone (watched by a loving dog, who almost looks ready to talk). In a confrontation in the middle of the film, Simon has to “ask” him to stop trying to see them.
Simon is pleasantly assertive at first, and seems to be able to handle the overtures. Behind the scenes, he uses words like “delusional” and “weirdo” to characterize him. But Robyn begins to suspect something is seriously wrong from the past, and that Simon isn’t telling all he knows.
Simon is also in line for a big promotion at work. He seems cool about it, but gradually we learn his rise to power in the corporate world could have involved some unethical shenanigans.
It may be a bit of a spoiler, but the “answer” is important. Simon had been a bit of a bully, and Gordo, in middle school, had been the sissy, accused of being gay. Now, Gordo wants some kind of payback. Apparently a story of sexual abuse had been fabricated, and Gordo’s life had gone down a wrong track, with mental illness and some petty crime, as a result. There are some incidents in my own life (the William and Mary expulsion, and a middle school incident about a speculative medical rumor) that make a rough parallel.
Simon accuses Gordo of not wanting to let go, of remaining weak. In one line, he almost sounds like Donald Trump talking about Bernie Sanders. Well, I never let go of my own past. I wrote three books and blog about it. I don’t just erase if and go playing huckster, or run for office, or play ball in somebody else’s social power structure.
The last act of the film, involving one final three-part “gift”, is a little over the top. In fact, it would take too long to evolve for the time span of the film – it has to do with Robyn’s finally having a first child. Maybe it creates a “point proved”.
The official site is here (Blumbous; STX and Lionsgate). The film, although independent in style, is showing in major theater chains.
I saw this late Friday afternoon at Regal Ballston.
Picture: The 405 in LA at night, my 2012 trip.