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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Major Details About the Plot.

Remembering the Bad Times

The Gift (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

The camera slowly traverses a long porch. Birds chirp in the background. Next it moves us along an empty hall into an unfurnished house. “Hi,” a man says off camera, “You must be Casey. I'm Simon.” The woman real estate agent shows off this “mid-century modern home.” Simon's wife interior designer Robyn (Rebecca Hall) remarks that it has, “lots of light” (i.e. huge windows) and an “over­size fire­place” (smokey?). Upper middle-class Simon (Jason Bateman) fogs a spot on a picture window with his breath. Robyn is from Chicago but Simon is returning to this his L.A. East Side neighbor­hood. The house isn't exactly what they were looking for, but they take it.

Next we see them shopping for home appliances. A man observes them, from a crowd of shoppers. He's a little out of focus in the back­ground but we can recognize him by his distinctive goatee if we've seen the trailers. He approaches Simon saying, “I think I know you.” They'd gone to high school together at Fair­mount Park. Simon intro­duces his old school­mate Gordo (Joel Edgerton) to his wife. It is a “super awkward” chance encounter.

Gordo, by and by, leaves a little housewarming gift for the couple, so Robyn reciprocates by inviting him to dinner. As part of the chit chat she learns that Simon had suc­cess­fully campaigned to be class president, earning him­self the nick­name “Simon Says” (“Ask and thou shalt receive.”) He's still organized for success today.

Simon is uncom­fort­able around Gordo (“That guy is odd”), so he'll break off their (one-sided) friendship. Gordo's nick­name from school, it turns out, was “Gordo the Weirdo,” and it still is as far as Simon is concerned. Simon as pres was well known, and the “Weirdo” was infamous. The whole community knew their stories, from young to old. Gordo now works as a stand-up comic, so I suppose one might project back to see odd behaviour in his forma­tive years. Robyn, at any rate, is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, while she picks up tid­bits of info from the community remembering from way back. The couple's house, mean­while, is hit by unknown vandal(s).

Simon secures his coveted promotion as National Division Sales Rep at his security company after an anonymous e-mail to Parker & Fitch prompted an investigation of his competitor one Danny McDonald. How­ever, a security firm can probably trace back the origin of an e-mail, and then there's that adage, “People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.”


Some creepy stalking activity is accompanied by “Apocalypse Now” music and a couple scrawled scriptures, one about, (Psalm 7:14-15) “Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth false­hood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.” That corresponds generally to the New Testament verse, (1Cor. 3:19) “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” If we continue reading from there we find descriptions of Paul & co. who, (1Cor. 4:11) “have no certain dwelling place,” in a way like Gordo who had change­able digs. Then comes Paul's mode of operation similar to Gordo's, (1Cor. 4:13) “Being defamed, we intreat.” Gordo was defamed in high school for being gay, and now he's entreating favor with a gift. To be sure, Paul was defamed for standing against circumcision, the sabbath, and the law, but that was largely a misunder­standing, too.

We see Gordo dressing like a dandy for his stand-up routine in gay, i.e. brightly colored, clothing. And his reciprocating invite to Simon & Robyn for dinner at his home turns out beyond awkward to what we'd call oh, so gay, as in really stupid. In fact the ruse that he pulled was down­right illegal. Further­more, having manufactured a "wife" to set the stage, that would put him on the wrong side of the law w.r.t. Green v. Utah—in which a Mormon polygamist was busted for “misusing the marital label”—for using his manufactured stupidly gay marriage in his illegal scheme. This is why our courts promoting homo­sexual rights didn't approve gay marriage per se, but same-sex marriage, the former having too many different senses to use in legal formulas that need to be precise. Since our popular expressions should follow our state by state votes that largely disallowed same-sex marriage altogether, we just wouldn't use the dyad gay marriage to mean a hitching of homos without contex­tual­izing it by saying “gay and lesbian marriage.” Similarly, Gordo's old high school group couldn't keep track that gay attire and gay behavior does not necessarily equate to a homo­sexual orientation.

Note that the New International Version (NIV) and the New American Standard Version both say that Paul entreats after being slandered as opposed to defamed. Slander is a more serious offense than the mere defamation written in the KJV, because slander would add to defamation either dishonesty or malice. The community at large had just got caught up in the defamation, for which they later were sorry.

Reading further, (1Cor. 4:17) Paul is said to “teach every where in every church,” as Gordo does his stand-up gigs in various joints. And we see (1Cor. 4:15) where Paul points out that, “though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers.” There are a gazillion educators who will say Simon should not to be a class bully, but Gordo can define that formative moment in high school when it started. And we end up with Paul at, (1Cor. 4:18-21) “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” Gordo starts to come to Simon in meekness, but if Simon can't get the hint, then it's on to the rod, what­ever that may be for an ace prank­ster of a stand-up comic who's more than a little weird.

And Robyn is a whole nother story. She meets the neighbors, “Lucy and Ron. Welcome to the neighbor­hood” and fits right in along the lines of Paul's instruction on church body life, (Eph. 5:21) “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Submitting to each other is exemplified when Lucy (Allison Tolman) lets Robyn use her bath­room, and Robyn for her part takes only modestly what she requires of the accoutre­ments on the shelf. Straight­forward submit­ting to each other. Yes, but some­body else's prescription medication? Oh well, Lucy won't miss a few pills.

The following verse—starting a new paragraph in the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible—Paul moves on to family life with, (Eph. 5:22) “Wives, submit your­selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” My Criswell Study Bible lists the Greek term for submit (verse 22) as “hupotassō a military term which means ‘to place under’ or ‘to subordinate’.” The one whom she's under, Simon, doesn't want there to be any unauthorized pills in the house, in fact he'll search it to make sure there aren't any. For that matter he moved them to a new house to get her away from her addiction.

The opposite of the Greek for under, hupotassō, is over, hyper. This WEB page, for example, is produced in HTML, hyper­text markup language. You can read it all as straight text, words submitted to each other in their proper grammatical structure. But there's markup that's over this text, and if you click such a hyper­link, you will skip all the textual structure to end up in a different part of the page or on a different page altogether. Similarly, Simon can relate to Robyn in the give and take of, say, a close neighbor, but if he exercises his authority, suddenly the house is drug free, or they're in a different house altogether.

Their two worlds collide when Simon the head of his wife tells her to let him have some privacy to discuss matters with Gordo, and Robyn disobeys to snoop and find that Simon isn't such a nice guy as she thought he was. That only makes matters worse for the family. Peter says, (1Peter 3:1) “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may with­out the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” The word conversation here is used in its old sense of manner of life. Her holy submission to him is supposed to be a good influence on the man gone astray. (1Peter 3:6) “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” The context is from the Genesis where Abraham asked Sarah to go along with him in a half-truth to a local king about their marital status, and she obeyed her “lord.” Later the king rebuked them both for lying and gave them gifts and sent them away. The remaining scripture referenced in this movie, Luke 3:9, is where in good stalker tradition “the axe is laid unto the root of the trees.” It succeeds a verse, Luke 3:8, where father Abraham is invoked.

Modern English Bibles cut Paul's lengthy discourses that started out as a long string of conjoined sentences, into individual short sentences, and the NIV takes the last clause, Eph. 5:21, about mutual submission in the section on body life, and sets it apart as a paragraph unto itself. There­fore in our studies of Ephesians 5, the study on body life ends up there, but the study on family life the next week will begin with that same verse, the congregation none the wiser. Next comes an end run around the woman's submission to her man, to a man out of love bending over back­wards to accommodate his wife, so she ends up with her husband in a place of mutual submission, as in the body general, which costs her very little. It would be as if I didn't use any hyper­links on my page(s) but made it all straight text on a single page, with a lot of circum­locution to get the reader lost on his way to a goal. The New Revised Standard Version goes a step further and places the clause (now a sentence), Eph. 5:21, up in the next section on family life.

Production Values

This (2015) film “” is written, directed, and co-produced by new­comer Joel Edgerton who did a passable job. It stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton him­self. The perfor­mances are all strong, especially Bateman's in a serious role. He delivers a power­ful mono­logue before his co-star, Hall, who her­self does some good work as a troubled woman. Edgerton gives each of his actors lots of room to shine—himself included.

MPAA rated “The Gift” R for language. It's not visually exciting; its cinema­tog­raphy is dingy and saturated, casting a moody light on nearly every scene. Cinema­tog­rapher Eduard Grau captures some rich details, though. In a lot of the scenes the camera and the action are on different sides of a large window, unperceived by the audience, so that when a person goes through the adjacent door, we do a double take. This emphasizes the glass house the man lives in. The camera works with the expertly paced narrative to produce spot frights. Edgerton's script is machia­vellian but it holds together, and his characters are well drawn. His direction is well managed and he allows suspense to build through the action of the characters. It would work on TV as well as on the big screen, if that's your option for viewing it.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is not a feel-good movie because we don't end up with any sympathetic characters. “Gordo the Weirdo” is just a little too weird unless we give him an expan­sive benefit of the doubt, which the movie stops short of allowing for. “Simon Says” starts out with our sympathy, but how much sympathy will remain for a rich guy who gets that way by stepping on his competition, and he's a bully besides? We might sympathize with a strong woman who stands up to her abusive husband, but Simon does not abuse her, instead she abuses her­self with pills, which he inter­venes to stop. The friendly neighbors can't get our sympathy, because they are a little on the gossipy side, one big Peyton Place. The company Simon works for is a little too quick to jump the gun from an anonymous e-mail. On the good side, we're given scriptures that help explain the developments, if we're fast enough to catch them, and spend some time looking at their context. But if we've forsaken the KJV for some modern version, even that is unlikely to work. Me, I loved it, but I like all kinds of movies, and you'd have to share my taste for hard drama to respond similarly. The DVD release is est. December, 2015.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Language not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769, 1873, 2011. Software, Print.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Print.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.