For his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton weaves a subversive edge-of-your-seat suspenser that will knot stomachs tighter than a sack of White Castle hamburgers. Jason Bateman (assuredly cast against type as an arrogant Republican) and Rebecca Hall play a presumedly happily married couple who are hoping for a baby to make it three, with Edgerton – not content to live his life in soft focus background - emerging as a drip from the past, quietly seeking comeuppance. The ads scream Fatal Attraction, but rest assured theirs is not a typically-minted crime of passion. The Gift doesn’t stop giving, right up until an indeed disturbing climax – never saw it coming – designed to haunt and resonate for days after. Crackerjack bread crumb-dropper that he is, Edgerton’s path is such that a second viewing will be in order to a) marvel at how he did it and b) catch all of the veiled references to other movies.
No need to ask the delivery man from whence the square turquoise package hailed. The wrapping paper was identical to that of a similar-sized box of goodies found resting on every reclining seat at the AMC La Jolla before the press screening of The Gift. Besides, the studio rep tipped me to its pending arrival.
The news of its journey came a few hours after my interview with the film’s writer, director, and star, Joel Edgerton. Our chat must have been a success. Why else would a same-day shipment of swag be in order?
The Gift chillingly illustrates what happens when fate reunites a class bully (Jason Bateman) with his prize victim, Gordo (Edgerton). A red, hand-written card taped to the package read, “Scott — It’s been a while...we should catch up soon. @YourFriendGordo,” punctuated by the character’s trademark smiley face.
Alright. You have me going.
Unlike the screening spoils — three squares of dark Ghirardelli chocolate — the first name to appear while ridding the container of it’s wrapping was that of Warner Bros. animation guru Chuck Jones. Inside was a scale replica Acme Anvil, identical to those drawn by both Jones’s pen and the gravitational pull of Wile E. Coyote’s head.
For the man who has everything
Was this an attempt at finding a corollary between a first-rate psychological thriller and the delightfully inappropriate antics of a Road Runner cartoon? And why would indie production company STX Entertainment be sending me something associated with a rival studio?
None of it made sense, so to help confound matters more, I turned to Fox 5’s Josh Board, my row-mate at the screening, hoping that he could admit me chorus to this anvil mystery. A long pause followed by Board’s quizzical “Anvil? What anvil?” led to my downing a couple of Advil.
“I give up,” began the email to Cindy Falco, the publicist. “Loved the card, but what does a (cartoon) anvil have to do with The Gift?”
The Gift trailer
“We just wanted it to be something personalized to you,” came the speedy reply. “As if Gordo has known you for a while... So I was talking to Matthew and he mentioned you liked Looney Tunes. I figured it would be a great personalized gift on behalf of Gordo.”
You mean, this wasn’t a tschotske occupying space in the Allied Integrated Marketing prize closet, waiting in patient preparation for just such a situation to arise? Surely the studio shipped a half-dozen or so in advance to tickle the bellies of responsive critics. And since when does anyone in the industry put time, thought, and originality into individualizing a camera movement, let alone a gift?
The thought does count, Ms. PR rep. Kudos for your puzzlingly idiosyncratic display of thanks. And to you, Lickona, should the question ever again be posed, would you please inform the querier of my fondness for hundred-dollar bills?