Tag Archives: Redemption

Well, The Critics Sure Loved “The Gift”

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.

What is HBO NOW?

HBO NOW is the new stand-alone streaming subscription service which allows non-HBO subscribers to watch HBO content. I recently signed up for a free trial. HBO has not been part of our cable service for quite some time now, and I believe the last time we had it, the kids were still young enough that we were muting certain commercials during football games, attempting to protect their young sensibilities! So, HBO wouldn’t have been playing in our home anyway.

What I’m finding in general, so far, is that I’m responding pretty much like I did to House of Cards. Most of the drama series are a little too real and too depressing to enjoy. I suppose that speaks most loudly about where I am with politics (feeling pretty hopeless) and crime (why do we need hour after hour of being bathed in the depravity and death brought about by sociopaths), but I’m not finding these shows resonate at all with me.

I’ve not seen even one minute of Game of Thrones, but that seems to be all the rage these days. Just the little bits I have read about it here and there are pretty horrifying. Bloody massacres, rape, incest? What is happening to us that we find this type of programming compelling?

Sure, the acting in these shows is extremely high quality. One show I did enjoy, and also saw elsewhere, was Enlightened, starting Laura Dern. But, that show was very different from much of the fare that HBO serves up.

So far, I have tried at least one episode of Angels in America, Angry Boys (only made it through five minutes of one episode), Big Love, Boardwalk Empire, Bored to Death, The Comeback (has potential, I think), Doll & Em, Five Days (in conjunction with BBC — only five episodes; watched the whole series), The Newsroom, Sex and the City, and True Detective.

Now, I’ve watched HBO’s The Wire from start to finish, five seasons. It’s all about the drug trade in Baltimore and the police who patrol, arrest, harass, and do what they can to work in such an environment. So, it’s not like I won’t watch a show that has intensity, blood, and darkness in it. But the sheer volume of shows that just pour out death and darkness is really making me wonder what we humans are doing.

What kind of impact is watching these shows having on our young people? Our old people? Our middle-aged people? Do people have any hope anymore?

I wonder what it would take for our culture to roll back the tide of filth and violence. I suppose the first question I need to answer is what result do I want from what I read and watch? There’s a bible verse that says “. . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Whatever one thinks about the bible, one could probably agree that we might be transformed if we began to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

I’ve given this post a couple of days to sit and settle. While the previous paragraph is all true, many of the books and movies that have impacted me most deeply include pain, suffering, and redemption. So, perhaps the key feature for me is redemption.

By redemption, I mean finding a purpose in the suffering, finding a HOPE in the midst of the difficulties. Some of HBO’s fare has those elements. Some does not. There’s a difference between just wallowing in mud, and looking around for a reason and way to get out of the mud.

We can’t deny the reality of the mud, but we can decide how much time we’re going to spend covered in mud from head to toe.