A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gift is a thriller that offers a new twist on the frequently used "psychotic intruder" formula (The Boy Next Door, etc.). While there's plenty of tension, violence is limited to a brief fight, a slap, arguing, dead fish in a pond, and one quick jump-scare. Frequent strong language includes several uses of "f--k," "a--hole," "bitch," and "s--t." A husband and wife kiss and touch, and there are some brief sexual innuendoes/references. Characters drink fairly frequently, but always in social occasions (twice, it seems like people have had a bit too much). Reference is made to a character's former drug problems; she steals and takes a prescription pill from a neighbor. The movie addresses bullying and its long-term impact.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Simon (Jason Bateman) has a good life. He's just landed a fancy new job and bought a new house with his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall); they hope to have a baby, though Robyn has already had one miscarriage. While shopping, they run into an old classmate of Simon's, the slightly strange Gordon "Gordo" Mosley (Joel Edgerton). Gordo begins showing up and offering gifts, making attempts at friendship, but his presence gives Simon the creeps. After Gordo is caught in a lie, Simon tries to break it off with him. But Robyn learns that something terrible happened between the two men during high school, and that things aren't as they seem.
Is it any good?
Making his feature directing debut, Edgerton takes the old thriller formula about a creepy, psychotic intruder and turns it upside down, giving it real-world weight and consequence. As the movie goes along, it hits all the expected beats, and Edgerton gets viewers thinking: Why won't this creepy guy leave this nice couple alone? But then, via some subtly skilled strokes, you start to think that maybe the nice couple isn't so nice, and maybe the creepy guy isn't so bad.
It's a welcome effort from Edgerton, who's part of an Australian film collective that routinely makes intelligent, compelling films (Animal Kingdom, Wish You Were Here, etc.), largely in the crime genre; Edgerton has already worked on several screenplays (The Square, The Rover) and short films. As with the others, THE GIFT peers a little closer at a familiar genre, asking smart questions about what makes it human.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Gift's violence. How strong is the violence here compared to what you've seen in other, similar thrillers? How does their impact compare? Do movies have to have moments of actual violence in order to be scary? Why or why not?
Do you think this movie improves on a familiar formula? Is it always possible to improve on stories that have seemingly already been done?
How much drinking is shown? Does it appear to be social, for pleasure, or for other reasons? What about the wife's pill-taking? What are the consequences? Are they realistic?
What does this movie have to say about bullying? Is the bully dealt with in a way that seems reasonable or fair?