The Gift (Of Revenge)

The question of whether or not we can ever really get over the cruelty of our high school tormentors is explored with creepy gusto in Joel Edgerton’s (best known for acting) The Gift. After Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall), move back to his hometown of Los Angeles for a job in security information he got there, the appearance of an old “friend,” Gordon a.k.a. Gordo (Edgerton himself), at a homeware store begins to make Simon uneasy–especially after he starts dropping by unannounced.

At first, Gordo’s obsessiveness seems harmless enough, stopping by with the phone numbers of important maintenance people here or filling their koi pond with fish there. But when he invites them over to his so-called house for dinner under the guise of inviting another couple as well, only to tell them that the latter “backed out at the last minute,” Simon’s suspicions of his malintent are further solidified. Robyn, on the other hand, feels that Simon’s overreacting and that Gordon is harmless. When Gordon takes a call and leaves in the midst of their pre-dinner drinks, Simon snoops around with Robyn, discovering a closet filled with women’s clothes and a children’s room. Weirded out by this, the two rush back downstairs when they hear Gordo return. Simon confronts him about it, and Gordo makes up a story about how his wife left him and took the kids, and that’s the reason he had to take the call from her outside.

Of course, Simon later learns that this was actually the home of his employer after invoking Gordo’s wrath upon telling him to stop coming to their house. Before Simon decides to chastise Gordo, however, he tells a number of other friends about his former classmate’s unwanted presence in his life, to which one person notes, “Normally friendships grow organically, and if they don’t serve both parties they just kind of organically dissipate.” But in Gordo’s case, revenge ends up being the true motive behind ignoring Simon’s blatant ire toward him–even after he catches a glimpse of Simon’s handwriting on the refrigerator crossing out his name from “Gordo” to “Weirdo” (his nickname was Gordo the Weirdo in high school).

Robyn continues to grow suspicious of what really happened between Gordo and Simon in high school, particularly after Gordo sends him an apology note stating that he was willing to let “bygones be bygones.” When Rebecca questions him on what the meaning behind this phrase is, Simon claims to have no idea. In the meantime, Robyn’s inability to sleep for fear of Gordo showing up prompts her to steal a few sedatives from a neighbor. One morning, she passes out and doesn’t wake up until the next day. Soon after, she becomes pregnant. Delighted by this news, both Robyn and Simon try to forget about Gordo, but, for Robyn, his presence continues to haunt, and she ultimately does some investigating of her own to discover that Simon made up a horrible rumor about Gordo inferring he was molested by an older man that got him so ridiculed he had to change schools.

Simon’s bullying persona shines forth yet again after he does a background check on a fellow job candidate at work, Danny McDonald (P.J. Byrne), and makes up a lie about him as well in order to secure the position he wants within the company. As Simon’s history of fabrications and antagonism unfolds before Robyn’s eyes, she is horrified by the revelation of his true character, particularly after he seethes,”This world’s about fucking winners and losers, and we’re all in the same shitty playground, you know? Guess what? That this guy lost and that he’s moaning about it is just him being stuck because he wants to be stuck because he can’t get past the fucking moment.” Later on, she informs him she wants to separate from him on the day of their baby’s birth.

To make matters worse for Simon, he receives another “gift” from Gordo upon returning home: a video of him in a monkey mask molesting (full-circle, you see) Robyn while she’s passed out. Gordo calls him and says that it might be his baby, but it might not, concluding, “See what happens when you poison people’s minds with ideas?” His final act of vengeance being poetic and cruel, Gordo at last seems to be at peace with the past just as Simon settles in to discomfort with the present.