left to right: married couple Robyn and Simon, unsettling stranger Gordo
(This review contains spoilers)
Last night, we went to see “The Gift.” By “we,” I mean Susan the Moviegoer, Susan the Lifelong Learner, Susan the Mother of an Addicted Son, That son, That son’s girlfriend. I had heard of the movie and knew it had gotten a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d seen it mentioned on Twitter, knew Justin Bateman was in it, and had thought I might want to see it at some point.
As I was still trying to demonstrate how lovely the water was to the horse, I thought going to a movie would be good because it would distract him from the urge to use. (Oh, the folly. I don’t think anything I come up with is going to distract him.) The timing worked, the babysitting came through, etc.
The first third of the movie, I just shook my head. The foreshadowing was so blatant as to be almost painful. And the decisions they made were most definitely not made by wise people, ESPECIALLY when considered in light of the rest of the film. I’m all for the willing suspension of disbelief at times. But why they would continue to invite a stranger into their lives, their homes, share a meal, accept gifts,etc., when both the husband and wife were uncomfortable with this.
A couple of example of plot holes: Simon kept a large drawer locked but kept the key in a tin in the drawer above the locked one? Robyn (the wife) invites this stranger into her home while Simon is at work and she is alone? I just don’t like it when movies BELLOW hints out to watchers: “There are no fish in this pond! That means something significant will happen regarding populating the pond with fish!” “Simon is writing a mean thing on the whiteboard about Gordo! Audience, pay no attention to the realization you have immediately that Gordo will see this insult!” “Simon’s little one-act play making fun of and diminishing Gordo IS GOING TO COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM.”
If you’d like more details about the plot, there are multitudes of reviews online. Here are our reactions:
Susan the Moviegoer: OH PLEASE. THINK ABOUT YOU ARE DOING, CHARACTERS IN THIS MOVIE!
Susan the Lifelong Learner: Well, this should be interesting. The “stranger” (Gordo) comes to dinner and tells Simon and Robyn that difficult things that happen to us are a gift. He doesn’t elaborate on that other than to say that they help us learn things. Hey, yeah! I believe that! But then the rest of the movie illustrates that the difficult thing that happened to him really wasn’t a gift. It had ruined his life and caused him untold pain, and he lived to get revenge.
Susan the Mother of an Addicted Son. (Early on) Interesting. There is a character in this movie who is progressively ruining his life. Oh, hey, maybe this will be a movie that actually has redemption for the character who has made all these bad decisions which have brought him to a low spot. (Further on) Well, there’s still a possibility that there might be some learning on the part of the main character. (Near the end). OH. CRAP. The guy has ruined his life so completely that I don’t see how he could possibly come back from everything he has lost by his own actions here. I’m sitting next to a young man who is very overwhelmed by the ruination that his choices have brought to his life. What must this be like for him to watch?
But, even in light of all that, it was a very interesting character study between two men who have a history. Simon was instrumental in bullying Gordo and making up a story about Gordo that apparently ruined his life. Gordo seemed to have focused his life on getting revenge on Simon. There certainly were a CRAZY lot of coincidences that had their paths cross again, 25 years after the original incident.
Simon had managed to hide his bullying tendencies from his wife of several years? Was it realistic that he had been a bully all along and suddenly his long-ago bullying was the factor which led to the destruction of everything he held dear?
Sadly, Simon had been lying about some things for a long, long time. A key sentence in the movie: “A liar doesn’t believe anyone else.” And, “When someone lies to you, you have a hard time believing anything they say.”
Reviews that i read thought this was a commentary on the corporate world and what you must do to get ahead, but I really didn’t see that. Certainly there are people who lie, cheat and steal every step up the ladder, but that isn’t the only way to accomplish things or succeed. The ultimate question for me after this particular film was where do people today find hope? How could Gordo have had a different outcome after being bullied and abused? What would it have taken for Simon to really repent of his arrogance?
I guess from a film-making standpoint it had some strengths, and for a certain type of story, it also had strengths. It just wasn’t the story I wanted it to be. I suppose it had some parallels with real life for me. The story my son is living isn’t the story I want it to be. And yet, I am not the writer of his life. I am only the writer of my own life. So, my role is to write my own character in his story in a way that reflects what i know and believe to be true.
When I accept the story that is actually happening, when I say “Perfect, what’s next,” when I say, “Yes, and,” I am able to face the next scene creatively. But that still doesn’t make it easy to watch someone who seems to be choosing the exact opposite.
2 thoughts on “Well, The Critics Sure Loved “The Gift””
Movie makers wield great power and influence in the world. If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it over them so that they might tell us powerful stories to uplift us, challenge us to be more, to serve, to grapple with big questions, instead of glorifying apathy, skepticism, hatred and hopelessness.
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I’m grateful that some movies do indeed do this!!
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