The Gift

This cagey suspense film was originally called “Weirdo,” but the ultimate release title, bland as it might seem, is actually closer to the mark: the story is like one of those gift-wrapped boxes with another box inside, and another inside that one. The early scenes promise a routine stalker scenario: a successful salesman (Jason Bateman) and his loving wife (Rebecca Hall) move into a new home and endure a series of unexpected and increasingly unwelcome visits from an old schoolmate of the salesman’s (Joel Edgerton). Yet Edgerton, directing his own script, purposely avoids the old genre tropes, shifting one’s sympathy from the hero to the villain and back again (but not quite). Edgerton—who also wrote The Square (2008) and the story for The Rover (2014)—exploits Bateman’s smarty-pants persona to chilling effect; he’s the rare triple threat who’s more valuable behind the camera than in front of it.