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JASON BATEMAN & REBECCA HALL & JOEL EDGERTON IN THE GIFT

year: 2015 rating: ***
THE GIFT is both exactly what it seems and nothing like it's supposed to be. Well that's the eventual turnout, which shouldn't be spoiled. Only to say that Jason Bateman takes a passive passenger seat until really coming alive. Those who grew up watching him as a snarky child and teenager can probably imagine the unseen yet very mentioned, extremely manipulative popular kid from former school days. One that rears up as a stalking reminder in the form of a once-bullied menace played by writer/director Joel Edgerton, who gives a sort of voyeuresque pulse ala FATAL ATTRACTION combined with the basic plot of a lesser known vehicle putting the indecisive wife up front, UNLAWFUL ENTRY...

Bateman and Edgerton aside, the central character is Rebecca Hall's Robyn. She not only plays the most vulnerable in a movie built on edgy suspense and sudden jolts to scare the audience, but she holds the big questions to this particular style of thriller. "How much will she let this noticeably freakish person get away with, and for how long?" And the sole answer relies on Bateman...

As Simon, a seemingly cookie-cutter "yuppie" husband, he holds the truly intense cards provided by Edgerton, the writer. For the character-actor turned filmmaker, in a role that could have been his very own scene-stealing Glenn Close bunny boiler meets Norman Bates PSYCHO, Joel lets the moody tension rely elsewhere. And for the most part, with the exception of a few overlong scenes concerning husband and wife during a claustrophobic first act, it's an entertaining two-hours of intentionally awkward silence... that knows when and when not to make a lot of noise.
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