*NEW* THE GIFT REVIEW *NEW*

TheGift
Joel Edgerton’s debut is a gift that needs returning.

Slow, dreary and dreadfully predictable. Disappointed doesn’t even come close.

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

That synopsis makes it sound so much more interesting that it really was.

Now I’ve been a fan of Edgerton for some time ever since his turn in Kinky Boots and Warrior. I really had high hopes for his directorial debut. A great cast do their best BUT you can’t hide a lifeless thriller with a surprisingly flat twist.

The opening got the ball rolling quite early. It set up the premise within five minutes. Couple. House. Creepy friend. Excellent. Let the game of cat and mouse begin.

The first half hour I was happy to allow the characters to develop. Always remembering that the inevitable was creeping around the corner. BUT by the hour marker, I was praying for it to come quicker (Steady now).

It was great to see Jason Bateman tackle a serious film for a change. I just wish he had a meatier role. He really excelled in the darker moments (which tragically there wasn’t enough of) and had good chemistry with Rebecca Hall.

Rebecca Hall is a very good actress but has this knack of featuring in mediocre films. Transcendence, anyone? She had an impeccable accent and carried the film for me. Lucky. Considering the film was very much focused on her character. The pawn in a very boring game of chess.

Edgerton was perfect as the troubled Gordo. The film picked up every time he appeared. To be honest, his numerous drop-ins at the family home felt like a minor inconvenience more than a stalkerish obsession.

I was impressed with Edgerton’s supporting cast. It’s just a shame that he didn’t give them better characters. Alison Tolman (Fargo) was wasted as the neighbour. It was extremely annoying because there was a strange moment in which Edgerton suggested something more suspect about her.

When Robyn (Hall) first meets Tolman’s character, she notices the baby is left crying in the back of the car. Hidden behind a veil. There was a slight Rosemary’s Baby vibe. BUT in the next frame, we have Robyn cradling the baby. It could have been a play on Hall’s paranoia BUT more should have been made of it.

How did Busy Philips from Dawson’s Creek get in this? She might as well have NOT been. Wendell Pierce was pretty much playing Bunk from the Wire. The same tired face and exasperated expression. Great for a Wire fan. Poor for anyone else. And he was only it in for 30 seconds and was completely redundant.

Eduard Grau’s cinematography may have provided a murky look to this supposedly “murky” thriller. But you can’t a polish a tur- turgid drama.

I’m happy to allow a slow burning thriller to unfold. If the pay-off delivers. The inevitable creepy tension as Gordo’s numerous appearances go from annoying to unsettling was too predictable. I could feel myself ticking everything off a check list. It was too formulaic. They have a pond. He buys them fish. They throw him out. He kills the fish. Oh no, they have a dog. What’s going to happen there?

It was inevitable that Gordo was a ticking timebomb. If anything Bateman’s reaction was more questionable as he finally lets his new guest know that he has overstayed his welcome. This is where the film did get a little more interesting as Simon’s (Bateman) past is called into question.

The cheap jump out of your seat scares felt desperate as the film continued to stagger along. I thought the shower sequence was merely a ploy to make sure the audience were still awake. Quick jump. Aaah! Right. Still with us? Back to the film.

The closing fifteen minutes finally delivered what I had expected from the rest of the film. A tense slow burning stand-off with the inevitable twist rearing its ugly head. And credit where it’s due; the twist was actually an interesting one. And I did appreciate Edgerton’s little nod to the Usual Suspects.

It did leave you pondering as the credits rolled. A nice touch. But once I got out of the cinema and into my car, I realised I had still wasted two hours for a mediocre conclusion and the revelation hardly matched all the mystery and hype.

Patchy at best but very disappointing for all the promise. Mr Edgerton, spend less time on wrapping and more time on picking a better present, eh.

2.5/5

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WHAT IF REVIEW

what_if_movie_poster

What if . . . ‘Arry Potter made a rom com about falling in love with a girl who is with somebody else?

A surprisingly watchable and entertaining one, that’s what.

Daniel Radcliffe makes another impressive screen outing breaking away from those Hogwarts halls in this indie rom com.

Now it’s hardly original. The obvious clichés are all there.

The inevitable yearning, the awkward glances, that typical teen debate about whether men and women can be just friends without the sexual ambiguities hanging around them like a foul smell. The inevitable ending.

However, at it’s heart is also a well acted, if slightly corny, rom com that is able to make you laugh and care for the clueless couple.

A feat in itself. You can’t help but watch so many of these regurgitated predictable romantic comedies and not actually care about the protagonists.

Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) have great chemistry and manage to apply it to some likeable and well written characters.

I think it really is down to your temperament of rom-coms. Normally I don’t have one.

So what’s it about? Wallace (Radcliffe), who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry (Kazan), who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall).

Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life (Bleurgh)

I went in ready to hate this. The trailers made it all seem so corny and schmaltzy BUT that only really happened in the final act.

The first half was an easygoing insight into the couple’s brewing relationship that moved along at a steady enough pace.

It just focused on the two characters BUT the chemistry and witty dialogue kept it all on par.

There is very little breaking apart from them except for the odd moment with the supporting characters to question their intentions.

The supporting cast weren’t a bad selection.

Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) was the main scene stealer as Wallace’s promiscuous college room mate, Allan. His odd outlook on life and bizarre sex advice was hilarious.

Especially his celebratory quip after having sex. That line will be quoted for months to come (Well for me anyway).

Rafe Spall (Prometheus) played the suspicious boyfriend with an impeccable accent. His character made for some awkward encounters as well as a humourous kitchen accident.

Mackenzie Davis (That Awkward Moment) didn’t do too badly as Allan’s partner. Her brash forwardness made for some funny moments.

However, I couldn’t help but feel that when she was teamed up with Driver; it all got a little OTT and hit and miss for me. The kind of OTT stuff I was expecting from the get go.

Megan Park’s (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) introduction as the temptress spiced things up, desperate for a rebound lay and targeting the “available” Wallace.

Predictable like I said BUT it’s a story we’ve either experienced or know somebody who has.

I wish more was made out of the subplot with Wallace’s sister (Jemima Rooper – Hex/Kinky Boots) and nephew (Lucius Hoyos).

It was a missed opportunity that could have added a little more depth to Wallace’s character rather than having him brood on a roof for chunks of the movie.

The final act in which the pair were missing each other as they travelled to different destinations was unnecessary and hammed up what was a normal and (generally) more realistic love story.

It may have been predictable BUT I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. It was entertaining, got the odd laugh and thanks to two talented actors, I wasn’t too bothered.

One of the better ones anyway.

3/5