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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

spoiler alert: about the ending of The Gift

[major spoilers for The Gift; spoiler-free review here]

“Bad things can be a gift,” says Gordo (Joel Edgerton) to his old high-school classmate, Simon (Jason Bateman), and Simon’s wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). What does Gordo mean by this? Is he referring to the fact that he has been bugging them to the point where it could be considered menacing? Is that somehow a “gift” that is going to make their lives better? Of course not. What is the gift of the movie’s title? It’s probably not the bottle of expensive wine Gordo leaves on their doorstep (when he wasn’t given their address) soon after he bumps into them and renews Simon’s acquaintance. And it’s probably not the much more expensive fully grown koi he later deposits in their fish pond. While these range from weirdly stalkerish to wildly inappropriate (and mysterious: we have no idea how Gordo could have possibly afforded an extravagance like the koi), none of that rises to the level of a the gift.

No, Gordo’s “the gift” is something nasty: it is the doubt and the discord he sows between Simon and Robyn. He makes Robyn wonder how well she knows her husband, whom she learns was a terrible bully in high school who did something so awful to Gordo that it ruined Gordo’s life. And she learns that Simon is still a terrible bully who does something to get a promotion at work that is way beyond what a normal, ordinarily ambitious but nonsociopathic person would do. Yet Robyn’s discoveries about her husband don’t ring true on an emotional level. There is no indication that she is so deluded that she hasn’t noticed that her husband is not a nice person before now (and we don’t see any evidence of Simon’s awfulness, either, until very far along in the film), and no indication that she is a victim of the sort of emotional abuse that would allow her to deny the evidence in front of her eyes (which, as I noted, is nonexistent anyway) about how her intimate partner is behaving. As a character, Robyn is so ineptly handled by the script (by Egerton, who also directs) that it reduces her to the most cardboard stereotype of a woman as fragile, confused, unstable merely because she’s a woman… though really it’s the movie itself, not Robyn, that is confused and unstable.

This clichéd depiction of a woman would be offensive enough on its own, but The Gift isn’t finished giving. The doubt that Gordo sows in Simon consists of this: He leads Simon to believe that the baby that Robyn has just given birth to at the end of the movie might not Simon’s at all. Hidden among presents for the baby that Gordo leaves at their house is a “gift” for Simon: a video recording of Gordo sneaking around their house, hovering over Robyn’s unconscious body, and dragged her away; she has passed out thanks to the drugs that Gordo slipped into her sports drink. The obvious implication is that Gordo raped Robyn and that her pregnancy could very well be the result of that. After all, she and Simon had been trying for a long time to have a baby, and it wasn’t working, and then all of a sudden she’s pregnant? How could that have happened?

This is all absurdly crass and repulsive, but here is the truly appalling upshot of The Gift. After a few feints at suggesting that perhaps Simon is the bad guy here, the movie gives up on that and — with this Schroedinger’s rape — settles fully on Gordo as the real villain. The “tragedy” of The Gift is wrapped up in its final scene, with Simon observing Robyn’s new baby in the maternity ward and becoming distressed over the idea that the baby might not be his, and that Robyn might have been raped. The “horror” here, and the payback from Gordo to Simon, is that Simon’s “property” — his wife — might have been used by another man — and that the “property” that is the child might not even be his property! As the credits roll and the lights come up, we are meant to feel bad for Simon, or at the very least to see that he had gotten his right and just comeuppance for having bullied Gordo all those years ago. Now Simon’s life is ruined, too.

(Perhaps this is payback to Bateman for having been on the other side of such a scenario in the abhorrent The Switch.)

Now, women being raped or otherwise abused onscreen not to explore women’s pain but in order to make men feel something is a trope with a long and disgusting history. But Edgerton has found a new way to be vile about it. Robyn is completely oblivious to the possibility that she might have been raped. She is blissfully ignorant of the chance that the child she just gave birth to might not be her husband’s child. And this is deemed a good thing.

Now, the only truly reasonable way to look at this entire scenario is that of course Gordo didn’t actually touch Robyn and is only messing with Simon’s head. Because there’s almost no way that Robyn could have been raped and impregnated without being aware of it. (I imagine many men do not know what I’m about to reveal here. A brief glimpse at any forum devoted to sex and health suggests that many women aren’t even aware of this.) This is the reality: When a man who isn’t wearing a condom ejaculates inside a woman’s vagina, that semen does not get absorbed by the woman’s body. It comes back out, later. Some tiny sperm might get absorbed, of course, but not its delivery vehicle. If Gordo had raped Robyn with the intent of getting her pregnant, there would be evidence that she would not be able to dismiss (and that’s beside whatever evidence would be left by the penetration itself, either bruising and/or discomfort or whatever lubricant he might have used). There is no way Robyn wouldn’t know. Maybe some women aren’t aware of this fact, but Robyn has been trying to get pregnant with her husband; she knows. So case closed: Robyn wasn’t raped, and Gordo is just messing with Simon.

Except… we have already seen that the film believes that Robyn is confused, uncertain, and perhaps good at lying to herself about absolutely everything. She would have to be if she hadn’t had a clue about what a loathsome person her husband is. (Even sociopaths aren’t charming all the time.) So maybe The Gift thinks it’s possible that Robyn could have been raped and impregnated without realizing that had happened. Maybe the title of the film refers to the baby that Gordo has given Robyn, who has been desperate for a baby? *gag*

This doesn’t help: the number of ways in which The Gift holds women in contempt and disdain only increases with this explanation. (As with so many other hot-button issues The Gift touches on, it gets this one wrong, too. Sure, a woman could potentially be sexually assaulted without necessarily being aware of it. But not like this.)

The Gift does seem to believe that it’s an open question, who the father of Robyn’s baby is. The ending wouldn’t have the punch it is intended to have if there were no doubt. The disaster for Simon is not “Look at this poor sap, so clueless about how women’s bodies work that he doesn’t realize that his wife cannot have been raped and impregnated secretly.” The disaster for Simon is “Oh no, his property has been violated! Or maybe not! He’ll never know for sure.” (Because apparently paternity tests don’t exist in this world.) To the end, Robyn remains ignorant of the Schroedinger’s rape, because her possible rape is totally not about her.

Of course, many men are clueless about women, not just about our bodies but about our minds, too. But there’s every indication that the man who wrote and directed this movie is as clueless as the two male characters onscreen seem to be.

posted in:
spoiler alert
  • RogerBW

    Certainly my first reaction when I heard about this was “hey, get father and baby DNA-tested, if they haven’t already been because of heritable conditions etc.” – fair enough, this might not have been done before.

    But really, in magic world where the baby is Gordo’s, what’s Simon going to do differently from here on? Leave it out on a hillside for the wolves? It’s a balance between not knowing at all and potentially knowing a bad thing.

    And the question of whether to tell Robyn any of this surely depends on her as an individual: I’d be in favour of disclosure, but I’m sure there are some people for whom it wouldn’t work. But when she’s Generic Placeholder Woman there’s no way of making the decision…

  • Actually, there’s a scene earlier, after Robyn learns that Simon has been lying to her to “protect” her from something, when she tells him flat out that she doesn’t want to be “protected” like this. So we know she would want to know.

    But the issue is that this is not about Robyn, and what she would want to know or not is entirely beside the point. Simon is the one who has been wronged here, and only Simon matters.

  • RogerBW

    Yes, not arguing with that. I think what I’m trying to get at is that it doesn’t work even on its own terms.
    The trailer for Visions looks potentially interesting, but I give it about an 80% chance of “nobody will listen to the heroine because crazy pregnancy hormones”.

  • It’s possible that Gordo, um, could’ve cleaned up afterward? (Or not? I don’t know. Nobody has ever had to remove the evidence after having sex with me, happily.)

    It’s even more likely that the men who made this movie weren’t aware of the points you brought up, in which case the possibility of violation exists within the context of this badly written story. Sort of like how we accept that Superman succeeded in reversing time by spinning the Earth backwards.

    Your deeper point is the important one. If THE GIFT doesn’t portray Robyn as the true victim of Gordo’s revenge, this isn’t a movie I ever want to see.

  • I think ignorance is far more likely an explanation than fastidiousness.

  • Jurgan

    Coming next year: The Gift 2, featuring Maury Povich!

  • leah

    awesome, so glad you wrote about this and pointed out the likely big flaw in the narrative — I can’t believe how little criticism there is of this movie’s insipid writing (or at least I’ve seen very little – here and a couple other places – but granted I didn’t look very hard); are good little thrillers so few and far between these days that some decent performances and a bit of creepy atmosphere are enough to placate people now, to excuse and look past the egregious use of trite characterisation and tired, sexist tropes – and further, nothing to subvert the clichés so that the narrative might actually do something beyond simply indulge in shitty tropes to ‘thrill’.
    Gordo would have had to clean up his ejaculate, which is possible, but if he did indeed rape Robyn with the hope of impregnating her it would not make sense to get his semen out and clean it up because it would make pregnancy very unlikely, so this scenario seems implausible in the context of his intent.
    How is it possible that not one person who read this screenplay thought hold on, she’d know from the moment she stood up and the spill of ejaculate after weirdly and abruptly passing out that something’s rotten in Denmark? Or did Gordo stand around a few hours after he’d drugged her waiting to tip his stuff out and clean her up, I mean this is super creepy in itself so some sort of illusion to this possibility, some small clue later on that wouldn’t make sense until the end would have been creative writing at least in terms of how the story is structured, clearly asking the viewer to buy the ambiguity of the paternity of the child (and thus robyn’s rape) as a device in SIMON’S character arc. There’s just nothing in the narrative to suggest Robyn’s rape really may have really occurred, it’s just bad writing all around.
    The reaction to this movie makes me honestly wonder if some people don’t understand there’s more than one level to film: there’s what the characters do in the actual story itself, and then there’s greater thematic and narrative choices the writer makes on how the story is told; I’ve seen a fair bit of rationalizing away the obvious use of tired, sexist tropes/clichés as a defence of this movie (the old ‘it’s the men who are painted in a bad light not the female so it can’t be sexist!’ argument) by people seemingly unaware that it’s not just the portrayal of a character but HOW the character is used that counts; in this case a woefully underwritten, clichéd ‘overly-sensitive, fragile, can-she-be-believed?’ woman and her possible rape is used purely as a device in the character arc of the male protagonist (antagonist) and how her mistreatment/violation effects HIM, completely erasing Robyn from the narrative in terms of any character arc or interior life (a tired, clichéd trope in the treatment of female characters if ever there was one), she’s used as a device, to motivate a male character to feel a certain way, the disturbed creeper and closet sociopath get their character arcs by way of Robyn’s abuse but Robyn herself doesn’t get to DO anything, feel anything about it, because she’s not treated as an actual fully-formed character. This is the issue and why the movie is a sexist cliché .
    Holy moly sorry to ramble on, I didn’t realize how long this comment was, this movie annoys me

  • How is it possible that not one person who read this screenplay thought hold on

    I wonder this too. I don’t want to believe that women actually in the industry are so ignored or so afraid to speak up that they don’t even bother to speak, but perhaps that is the case.

    The reaction to this movie makes me honestly wonder if some people don’t understand there’s more than one level to film

    A lot of people *don’t* understand that! I’ve been thinking for a while about writing something about all the different levels that movies (all fiction) occur on.

  • Danielm80

    Plenty of people think that the premise of Double Jeopardy is legally sound, and that the twist endings of The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects make logical sense. Never ascribe to malice…

    The tropes about women, on the other hand, I’m willing to ascribe to generations of entrenched sexism.

  • leah

    That sounds like a worthwhile idea, hope you do if you can find the time!

  • LaSargenta

    Gah! I had forgotten about Double Jeopardy.


  • Clare Wilson

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS REVIEW. I can’t get over all the glowing reviews for this film when its treatment of Robyn is the most staggeringly misogynistic thing I’ve seen on screen in years. I would love to see Jezebel reprint your review because it is absolutely right on the money. Great work.

  • Tell Jezebel that! :-)

  • Clare Wilson

    I just did – I sent a link to your review to their tips line. I really hope there will be more conversation about this movie and about the fact that 99% of reviewers seem to have no problem with the lead character suddenly being totally robbed of her agency to serve the male characters’ purpose. Props to you!

  • Thanks!

  • Deez

    Couldn’t he have sucked out the splooge himself after it had been in there a while?

  • traceylb

    What horrible thing did Simon do to Gordo in school to make him want to give him this type of “gift”? The spoiler just kind of skimmed over that??

  • RogerBW

    You can get a spoiler-full recounting of the plot at http://www.themoviespoiler.com/2015Spoilers/Gift.html .

  • Sweet P

    Maybe the ending had another aim. If Simon has to tell Robyn that she may have possibly been raped by someone he brought into her life, his life would be ruined even more. At the end, she was finally beginning to see what kind of person her husband was. The possibility of rape, and at the very least, violation, due to the drugging and sexual touching, would put the last nail in the coffin. That’s why Gordo was satisfied. Even if she wasn’t raped, Gordo still did violate her. If Simon decided to keep that a secret, then Gordo still has the upper hand. So I guess the movie implies that Robyn was finally gaining her agency and if she found out what actually happened to her directly, not only would she be angry, she would hate Simon. If he didn’t tell her, then there should be insurmountable guilt. All of the other things Simon did, hurt other people and Robyn only indirectly, until the end of the movie. The whole implied rape thing was still poorly written. She actually fell, and would have been manipulated as you say and would have noticed something. And anyone with sense would have been trying to figure why she was “out cold” all night. Especially, since she knew she had only taken one pill. Even dummy Simon, if he were a real person, would have wanted to see what was wrong with her….especially if she had never had an episode like that. This movie was annoying. Characters were not smart. Who would keep inviting in a creeper who made you feel uncomfortable, while your husband was not home? A lot of common sense had to be abandoned in order for this to work in Gordo’s favor. And his success in his revenge plan, was predicated on Robyn staying at home all the time AND being overly trusting. Some people have all the luck.

  • It wasn’t relevant to the point I was making, so I didn’t go into it.

  • Even if she wasn’t raped, Gordo still did violate her

    Yes. But it’s still not *Simon* who is violated.

    Who would keep inviting in a creeper who made you feel uncomfortable, while your husband was not home?

    But the thing is, Robyn was *not* uncomfortable with Gordo at first — she thought he was a little awkward but otherwise okay. And it makes sense that her reaction to Gordo could evolve, but it doesn’t make sense that her husband gaslights her about it.

  • Shiraz

    The only way I’d be able to stomach this is if Robyn found the video, watched it in silence, then later manipulated events so that both men ended up alone and isolated in some place where they finally kill each other in a rage.
    Cut to Robyn, watching from a safe space with binoculars. Her frown transforms into a bright smile.

  • passerby1969

    Hate to interrupt here…..but aren’t all of you a little too old to see movies and demand a magical, fairy tale ending? The movie’s tale is what it is. Stop moralizing about the telling of a story.

  • It would take a smarter filmmaker, and one who actually cared about women’s stories, to make a film like that.

  • Who is demanding “a magical, fairy tale ending”?

  • Shiraz

    I think the writer would have been around 18 when Reservoir Dogs was released (like me). A lot of people from that demo who wind up in the biz seem to ardor devastation endings like that. His colleague, David Michod, has the same thing going on with his screenplays. I mean, I kind of liked “Animal Kingdom,” and all (the performances were all strong — except for the main protagonist who came off like a rube), but it had one of those devastation endings too. It’s like, blam! Then credit roll.
    And you’re sitting there thinking, “How am I supposed to feel about this?” But not like at the ending of “No Country For Old Men,” which provoked a higher level of introspection.
    I dunno, actually I think the Game of Thrones creators suffer from this too. “Are we shocking people?” It seems like they’re wondering. Shock equals edge?

  • What if . . . the shock isn’t that Gordo may have raped Robyn, and the baby may not be Simon’s BUT . . . Robyn and Gordo willingly slept together and the videotape is staged/fake. That at least allows Robyn to act proactively and less like a movie pawn.

  • Except there’s no way to support such a theory in the movie as it exists. We’d have to actually see Robyn acting proactively.

  • Sarah

    Hi Maryann, I haven’t seen the film but enjoyed the article. I was in two minds about seeing the film based on what I’d heard and wanted to hear a feminist’s argument before deciding.

    Can I clarify one thing? Is it your position that Simon shouldn’t feel aggrieved that his wife has been raped and (so far as the film is concerned) potentially giving birth to her rapist’s child – which presumably he has to help provide for – or is your criticism primarily that the film gives no consideration for Robyn, who is, after all, the person who was (allegedly) raped?

  • The film treats rape as if it is an offensive against the male, because his property has been damaged. That’s the problem.

    I am NOT saying that it’s wrong if a man is upset because someone he loves has been attacked, injured, or wronged. But that is not what is going on here.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify. As I say, I haven’t seen it, so it’s difficult to know how it’s portrayed.

    If I may ask one last question, this one pertaining to the property argument: Do you think it is fair for him to feel aggrieved that his wife is carrying another man’s child? I ask this independently of the rape issue. It seems reasonable to be unhappy that one’s spouse is having a child which isn’t yours, regardless of the propertarian history. If the roles were reversed, I’d be unhappy.

  • Sarah

    Unappy for myself, that is. I’d also be unhappy for my husband if he hadn’t consented, of course.

  • I think there is an enormous difference between “my wife had an affair and she’s trying to pass this kid off as mine” and “my wife was raped and now I’m stuck raising someone else’s kid.”

    This question is NOT “independent of the rape issue” in this context.

  • Sarah

    I meant to propose a hypothetical situation in which the husband is sexually abused and (again hypothetically) has a child as a consequence.

    My husband wouldn’t have had an affair in this situation. I would be angered that he was abused because I care about him, but I would also be upset for myself that he now has a child to another woman, independently of that.

    The point in this admittedly wild hypothetical is that men haven’t historically been women’s property, even though the reverse is true. Yet, it still seems entirely reasonable to be upset that one’s partner is having (loose sense of the word – men obviously can’t “carry” the child) someone else’s child. My motivation would by quite a visceral one. (Or, perhaps it could be argued that I also view my husband as property which would open a whole new debate on how both sexes view one another)

    By extension, if it would be ok for me to resent the situation – and it can’t be claimed that this stems from a history of men as property since there isn’t one – then can you argue for certain that Simon’s resentment stems from the history of women as property, as opposed to the visceral reasons I would have?

    I have to stress again that I haven’t seen the film, and I can conceive of ways in which it could be directed so that the message *is* that ‘Simon’s property has been violated’, so I’m not saying you’re wrong. I may still avoid the movie, but the crux of my reasoning is the portrayal of rape as a weapon and the portrayal of a woman as a pawn in a feud between two men’s egos.

  • then can you argue for certain that Simon’s resentment stems from the history of women as property, as opposed to the visceral reasons I would have?

    Yes I can. I am stating this “for certain.” There is no basis for the sort of argument you are posing to be found in this movie.

  • Sarah

    Ok, that I can believe. Let me ask instead: Is it legitimate for a man (not Simon, and not in this film) to be upset for himself – not just his wife – in the circumstances described (his wife having someone else’s child following a rape)? I’m trying to establish whether it’s taken for granted that such resentment must be a result of the property-perception, or if it’s only because of the context provided in the film.

  • I really feel like you’re trying to back me into some sort of corner where you can yell “Look! The feminist hates men!” And I am not going to play anymore.

  • Sarah

    I’m really not, not least because, firstly I consider myself a feminist (one who wants to discuss theory to improve her understanding), and secondly, you are only one feminist and can’t speak for all of us, so there would be no reason to judge myself and all other feminists by your opinion. I feel that’s a cop-out from answering a difficult question on your part, possibly because it challenges your personal doctrine.

    What I’m learning from your decision not to answer is that we shouldn’t ask questions to learn more about feminism.

  • Sarah

    As far as I can tell, there’s an obvious dichotomy. One answer would imply a double standard which you would
    have to be address to remain consistent:

    1) It is legitimate for a man – independent
    of the property history – to feel aggrieved at his wife being
    impregnated by someone else, just as it would be legitimate for the woman in
    my example to feel aggrieved. This would be a consistent view, but would call into question your reliance on the property factor (outside of the movie, at least).

    It is only because of property-relations that men feel that way. This grievance is
    not legitimate. However, the same is *not* true for women, and their grievance is legitimate.

    Given your defensiveness, the latter seems to be your answer, and
    appears inconsistent prima face.

    To be clear, none of this suggests
    that you hate men (I assume patriarchy would be the more natural institution for critique), but it does present a flaw in your analysis which you should want to address for intellectual reasons. Your cry of “anti-feminism” instead only serves to silence any critique of your blog. I find this lazy.

  • Danielm80

    MaryAnn was criticizing the behavior of a specific man in a specific situation. When you bring up the behavior of a completely different man in a completely different situation, it’s irrelevant to the discussion. And when you keep bringing it up, in a hair-splitting way, it sounds like the sort of #NotAllMen defense people keep throwing at feminists. It also sounds, of course, like the sort of rhetorical trap MaryAnn described.

    Some other man, in a different movie or in real life, might be more broad minded than Simon, and he might have a right to feel aggrieved. But this isn’t a discussion about that man, and it’s not a tribunal on the behavior of all men throughout history.

  • Sarah

    Ah, I see, so your position because MaryAnn disussed one specific man, understanding of a wider theme can’t be pursued.

    I don’t agree with this train of thought, but you’re entitled to have it if it’s good enough for you.

    There is no “trap”. #NotAllMen is a problem which may explain your paranoia. Despite that anyone engaging in discussion beyond the narrow parameters of one film is out to trap you. Believe it or not, some people actually take an academic interest in feminism. The question is fair, and it can be answered without destroying feminism as a concept. As I said before, this sets a tone for silencing critical questioning.

    Not that I have to explain myself since it’s really no one’s business but here’s how it relates to the movie and my decision to watch it or not:

    I stumbled across the blog after hearing that the film trivialises rape. I wanted to watch the film until I heard that following good reviews. Now I want to hear the justification before handing over my money.

    If MaryAnn takes the view that a man CANNOT legitimately feel aggrieved for the reasons specified, but a woman can, and cannot reconcile this in a cogent manner, then I cannot trust her judgement on the film because I have been given no reason trust that analysis.

    If she concedes that both a man and woman CAN legitimately feel aggrieved, then I would know that the way the film is directed is the problem.

    I would avoid the film on the basis of the latter, but I would not choose to avoid it purely on the basis that “A man feeling aggrieved at his wife carrying someone else’s baby following a rape is automatically concerned with property”, because I feel that is myopic, and have been offered no explanation to the contrary (despite the fact I’m open to hearing one).

    Ergo, I have to conclude MaryAnn and yourself have no such explanation. It would be better if you just said so instead of resorting to wild fantasies about “traps”.

  • Bluejay

    Why not just go ahead and see the film, already? Then you can form your opinion on it and come back here to share whether you agree with MaryAnn’s review or not, and why. And this time you’ll be able to cite evidence from the film.

  • Bluejay

    What I’m learning from your decision not to answer is that we shouldn’t ask questions to learn more about feminism.

    Yeah, classic baiting. She’s not obligated to answer, and just because she declines to engage further doesn’t mean you’ve “won” the discussion. It’s also clear that you’re trying to trip her up, so you’re not really giving her an incentive to engage.

    Secondly, this isn’t Feminism 101. You can learn about feminism and feminist theory in plenty of other places. MaryAnn has never pretended to speak for all feminists, or that her reviews and commentary represent anything other than her personal perspective.

  • You’re asking about a broad hypothetical that has nothing to do with this movie.

    You want an answer related to this movie? It is NOT reasonable for Simon to be more upset about the paternity of the baby than he is about an assault on his wife. If he’s really that concerned about it, he can get a DNA test. This is not a matter that has to be unresolved for him.

    And if you’ve learned that I am not your feminist teacher, good. Cuz I’m not.

  • Robyn was not merely “impregnated” by another man. She was *raped.* (If it even happened at all.)

    I will NOT be drawn into the discussion *you* want to have. I am done with this.

  • If MaryAnn takes the view that a man CANNOT legitimately feel aggrieved for the reasons specified, but a woman can

    Do NOT put words in my mouth. I have said NO such thing.

    I would not choose to avoid it purely on the basis that “A man feeling aggrieved at his wife carrying someone else’s baby following a rape is automatically concerned with property”, because I feel that is myopic,

    Great. Because that is not what the movie or Simon or about. As I have already told you.

  • Sarah

    No one put words in your mouth. Pay attention to the sentence structure and you’ll notice the use of a conditional: “If”. Then observe a second condition in the next paragraph. Not difficult to follow, to be frank.

    >IF< you're disowning that statement, it would be easy just to say so instead of beating around the bush. You still refuse to do so, and I have no idea whether you believe the statement or not.

    All you had to do was answer one simple question. Not out of obligation, but for the sake of polite idea exchange. Instead, you and your followers have fallen back on accusations as a derailing tactic. I'm now leaving with the perception that you can't answer, and unconvinced by your theory, but I'll do what someone above suggested and buy the Blu-Ray to see for myself. Cheerio.

  • Sarah

    “to be MORE upset”


    Assuming the use of the word was deliberate. So by extension, you could then easily have answered my question: "It is not unreasonable for a man to feel aggrieved for selfish reasons, but in the film, Simon is MORE upset about the paternity than he is concerned for his wife, and I disagree with this"

    And then I would have agreed with it. Your review didn't specify it, and I wanted to clarify.

    Like pulling teeth, but by God I think there was some progress! Could have saved us 200 comments and butthurt accusations. Laters.

  • dijonesque

    I just saw this movie and was horrified by the movie itself, and also the fact that SO MANY reviewers ignore how utterly despicable it was. I’m so tired of being expected to just accept that female characters have no personhood because, oh well, it’s just a movie, after all. I was so heartened to find this review because I sometimes feel like some kind of killjoy because I can’t enjoy a film that asks me only to care about women insofar as they relate (and belong) to men. You have nailed exactly what is wrong with this garbage. Thank you.

  • female characters have no personhood because, oh well, it’s just a movie, after all

    Unfortunately, many people in real life also appear to believe that women are not people. This isn’t merely a matter of “it’s just a movie.”

  • Bluejay

    Pay attention to the sentence structure… Then observe a second condition… Not difficult to follow, to be frank

    My god, what a condescending asshole. No wonder she doesn’t want to respond to you. “Polite idea exchange” my ass.

    By the way, *I* was the one who suggested you go see the movie. Because then you’d actually be able to talk about it instead of this pointless intellectual masturbation where you’re strongly giving the impression you want to trip her up with hypotheticals.

  • Danielm80

    Sarah has spent most of the past week asking MaryAnn, “Are you so hopelessly biased because of your illogical views about feminism and property rights that you aren’t capable of writing a trustworthy review?” And yet she doesn’t understand why people are getting defensive. No matter what we say, Sarah will continue to believe she’s the aggrieved party. In fact, she’ll probably be along any minute now to explain—in hair-splitting detail—that her comment was entirely fair. After all, she held out the possibility that MaryAnn ISN’T hopelessly biased. Responding to Sarah is pretty much the definition of insanity. But I did it, anyway, because I really needed to vent.

  • dijonesque

    I agree completely. It’s so frustrating to have people dismiss misogyny in film because “it’s just a movie” as if art is totally divorced from our attitudes about real life.

  • Shiraz

    Boy, you’ve got that right. Responding to “Sarah” is a recipe for futility. I mean, “Sarah’s” most likely an MRA (they always pick the name Sarah…why?) type anyway. No point.

  • Shiraz

    What about the menz?!!?!

  • jodie

    I just don’t get the movie what so ever. The ending doesn’t make sense, and what did simon mean at the end of the movie when he says to Gordo * please don’t tell her* #confused.com!

  • Torsh Johansen

    Now, DNA tests do exist. But like Simon wanting to brush off the whole Gordo thing and “move on, move on, move on” — he will not want to know if that baby’s not his. Or he will want to know as leverage to get his wife away from filing for divorce. He’s caught in an unpredictable quagmire. So is the video — unanswered questions.

    He screwed Bateman over. What WOULD have been better is if Gordo wasn’t so creepy in his character. If he was genuine Mr Nice Guy, not Mr Creepy Friendly Guy as strongly established from the get-go… who ended up doing that. It would put HIGH HIGH doubt that he impregnated the wife, but at the same time, if he camera’d the place, you still couldn’t rule it out.

    It would take away LESS of him being a bad guy — thus an actual audience conflict of who-to-root-for (as opposed to neither as is the movie now). He’d still be a bad guy, but not any more a bad guy than the guy who threw a rock thru the glass of Simon’s house for screwing him over out of a job… but in a more under-the-radar sort of way. It would cast more doubt in him porking his wife I guess — but a vast majority of the creepiness would be on that last move he made — not so much During the movie where he was more-than-weird/creepy during it.

  • Torsh Johansen

    She’s a victim. You’re mad that she’s a victim. Yeah, with bad guys, there’s going to be victims. Women can’t be victims?

  • Torsh Johansen

    I disagree. That’s not what the “film does”. In Simon’s eyes, that certainly may be the case. And the other bad guy, well, it would be possibly over the top for him — but maybe not.

    It’s fvcking with Simon on “did I rape or didn’t I?”

    In SIMON’S eyes, knowing the character, that’s how he sees it at least to some degree — but that’s the POINT. Him being a BAD GUY, too. It’s not the FILM degrading women. It’s a film where there’s a guy who has a degrading view on women (both).

  • How about we start with women not being victims *all the damn time.* Would that be okay with you?

  • If the film didn’t share that perspective — that it’s an offensive against *Simon* if Gordy raped Robyn — it wouldn’t end with that “tragic” last shot of Simon.

  • Patrick Hartle

    Well when Gordo visited Robyn in the hospital she wasn’t exactly shocked to see him. Why didn’t she ask him “what are you doing here?” or call for help? Maybe she expected him to be there. She was defending him throughout the whole film as well so maybe Robyn and Gordo had a plan to get back at Simon for being a bully by staging the whole violation.

  • That is nowhere near evidence to support the notion that they were working together.

  • BeaveVillage

    The final gift is Gordo being the father of Robyn’s child and that Simon will never be able to look at that child or be a ‘father’ of that child without thinking about Gordo and what he did to Gordo.

    The Simon character would most certainly perform a DNA test shortly after the credits rolled and he most certainly would do it in secret. (cheek swabs). He would tell Robyn about the rape and show her the video in an effort to work their relationship out, as Gordo would be sent to prison shortly thereafter.

  • Deandera Lacks

    Look, I can tell by your daily post of a “London Photo”, that you’re an obvious case of someone residing in the bumpy northern good country district. I, coming from the southern drift islands would like to say that your background clearly has manipulated your taste in film and cinema. Do you realize how groll your write-up sounds? You need to realize Gordo’s intentions in the grand scheme of things — his goal is derived from deep, dark sexual fantasies. This film, despite using Robyn as a pawn does not indeed entirely reuse, or debase her. She is never shown naked, she is never shown doing drugs, she is promoted as a good woman. A woman who is kind and not manipulative, you fail to acknowledge this with your lack of statistical evidence of domestic abuse, and the sexual act you implied Robyn partook in. I’ve concluded that you stimulate at the idea of this. I have also concluded that you are indeed, a woman, a negative one.

    I recommend you read up on how to properly critique a film, or invest in a thesaurus and vitamin C.

  • Çağatay Kalan

    Well, I watched the movie just now and found this topic very interesting.
    So yes, it’s a “stupid manly” thing to see the victim as Simon instead of Robyn but actually we know that if Gordo would rape Robyn, he would do that to take revenge from Simon not Robyn. How do we know this? Because he is a “man” and men thinks like that. Since Simon is also a man, it is not hard for him to understand Gordo’s purpose.

    So if the question is: Would a crazy man rape someone’s wife to take revenge from him ? Many women could easily answer as “Well, that’s wrong but yes, if he is crazy enough, a man would do that”.

    So I think, accusing the director of being clueless about women is not totally right because like him, me, you, all women and men actually know that this kind of an approach is very common between men. Right or wrong, this is a fact, this is a way of thinking most men has. So the writer/director may not be actually supporting this point of view but using it. Isn’t that possible ?

  • Danielm80

    Then what’s the point of the movie? If all the characters are evil or clueless or both, why should we sympathize with them, and what are we supposed to gain by watching them? At best, we can feel sorry for Robyn, because she doesn’t realize—maybe—just how vile the men around her really are.

    The other possibility is that the filmmakers don’t realize how vile and deluded these characters are, and they expect us to side with them, even when some of them are doing terrible things.

  • jul412

    In the final scene, the curtains is closed in front of Simon. Is there a possibility that Gordo and Robyn made a baby on purpose ? Maybe she agreed to have a baby with him.

  • this kind of an approach is very common between men

    You’re terrifying me with this.

  • This has been discussed at length here, so please read all the comments here. Basically, though, there is absolutely nothing in the film to support such a theory.

  • Ben Vd Donk

    Holy crap, I can’t believe what I’m reading lol.
    This movie is set in the way that it’s set. I get your whole “but you’re treating women so poorly!” vibe but, I simply can’t believe my eyes.
    The movie places a woman in a situation where she’s clearly having personal issues. (This does happen, you know?) and as far as I can see, she’s a completely independant woman who decides her husband is a dick and that she never wants to see him again, obviously not worried about survival or anything else, IN THE SLIGHTEST. If anything, they’ve portrayed a strong woman and I feel like you’re calling a woman out for negative things because of your own “must critisize glasses”.

    I never interpreted it as if she was “just a piece of property”, nor do I feel that the movie did. This is an adult movie, not some stupid kid’s show. Obviously she wasn’t aware of being raped (if she was, and I do agree with your theory on that by the way, but that’s a writer’s error, shit happens. Doesn’t have to be sexist), and obviously it hasn’t even once been implied that simon got upset “because she was his property”. He had, pretty much, an emotional breakdown. For whatever reason, you seem to think that it should be easy for a man to tell his >already angry< wife, that she may (or may not) have been raped by a man who has been terrorising her because you were such a dick in the past. Even without all these things around it, I would still find it incredibly hard to tell my wife/gf that someone drugged and raped her.

    Anyway, enough of this. I know there's all these problems with sexism and such, I'm not ignorant. I just feel like you're trying to put shame where shame doesn't belong. I think she was presented as a woman who had a mind of her own and in fact; presented extremely strongly! MIND YOU: This woman disagreed with an ENTIRE group of people (let's call them a "hurde"), about a guy. She did NOT let herself get dragged along into trash-talking gordo. She has, from my perspective, been presented as the STRONGEST and most RESPECTABLE character in this entire movie.

  • Ben Vd Donk

    I’m sorry, I have to make something a bit more clear from my previous comment;

    I think YOU are the one being judgemental and short-sighted. You are literally reviewing a movie about how incredibly dumb and stupid the only character in the movie that I could respect is.
    This woman is the only good person in the entire movie. She is nice, polite, honest, not judgemental and doesn’t trash-talk anyone. And you are stating she sucks. I’m sorry, but; your perspective is fucked up.

  • This movie is set in the way that it’s set.

    And you think that happens by accident?

  • And you are stating she sucks.

    Citation needed.

  • Ben Vd Donk

    well not literally, but you did say this: “it reduces her to the most cardboard stereotype of a woman as fragile, confused, unstable merely because she’s a woman… ”

    And I simply disagree strongly. I feel like she was the strongest person in the movie (I’ll say again; the only respectable character in the entire movie). She wasn’t that fragile and confused, and the movie STRONGLY hinted that shie misscarried. Do you even know what this can do to a person? I’ve witnessed it and quite a few women (and even men) handle it a lot worse than Rebecca seemed to do in the movie. I simply disagree with your statement that she is a cliché character and stereotypically written by men, even tho she defies nearly all stereotypes of hollywood productions.
    Note; Basic looks, not looking like a model or anything, so she doesn’t get “sold on sexuality”, Not dependant on her husband (she’s clearly successful in her career as well!), Not getting dragged along in horrible gossip, not making a gigantic deal about everything… >telling her husband what to dotelling her husband to gtfodoing what she wants<

    So I just firmly disagree. Besides, your statement of many men being clueless about women also doesn't sit right with me. You can't blame "many" men for the severe mental issues every other production studio has. There's barely anyone in the spotlight who actually knows how the average person thinks and feels, yet everbody gets judged by those extremely few people that are indeed in the spotlight (what's that, like, 0.3% of the population?)

  • Ben Vd Donk

    what I meant with that was; the woman had a miscarriage and that gordo dude was a freak… The things that happened were entirely fitting in that scenario, in that sense. Altho again, I do still agree with your theory about the whole rape thing. Heck, I even thought to myself “How would you not notice having been drugged?”

  • I simply disagree with your statement that she is a cliché character and stereotypically written by men

    Disagree all you want. But calling criticizing how a character is written in this manner is not equivalent to saying “she sucks.”

  • entirely fitting in that scenario

    I have no idea what that means.

  • Kevin Kresse

    Except the focal point of Gordo’s hatred and/or rage is Simon so the pain this causes Simon is what’s highlighted in the film. Robyn is unaware of the video which actually makes the closing scene even more unnerving. Clearly she is the real victim in the film but I really don’t see how this is an aggregious depiction of women. This is one couple’s story. There are weak men in the world. There are weak women in the world. This is a story about a manipulative man and his past coming back to haunt him. That’s the story the writer chose to tell. News flash, often men like Simon, either consciously or subconsciously, seek out women like Robyn. Her character made sense. Simon is a bully at heart. Of course he’s going to seek out a partner he can control. You may not like that women like Robyn exist in the real world but that doesnt make them not exist or mean they shouldn’t or can’t be depicted in film.

    Lastly, on the ejaculate point and Robyn not realizing she was raped. We have no idea how long she was out. Gordo could have had ample time to clean up and very well could have known that he would need to do so.

  • Clearly she is the real victim in the film but I really don’t see how this is an aggregious depiction of women.

    The problem — as has been discussed here endlessly — is that the movie thinks Simon, not Robyn, is the victim!


    I am also wondering if there would be a ton of resentment knowing that her husband never actually apologized (actually doing worse – hitting and threatening him). This encounter, I think fueled Gordon’s rage (hence the final gifts)…. If he would have been remorseful (like his wife actually wanted him to do)…. I don’t think we would have seen the same ending. Gordon didn’t want revenge at first, he wanted approval.

    So what is “the gift” really? Is it the eye opener for Robyn to know she is married to an asshole? If this is the case – it took her this long and Gordon’s appearance to make her understand she was married to a bully? She appeared to be a strong woman, but now – I’m starting to re-evaluate her character otherwise.

  • Lisa Marqueling

    I think Simon would be more pissed off knowing that they were trying for so many years (pushing the knife in deeper since he probably is experiencing feelings of failure – remember what Simon wants, Simon gets?) and then knowing that with one sexual act by Gordon- wallaaa, she is pregnant.

    I think that would bother him more than anything…..

  • Lisa

    you are one strange bird LOL.

  • Lisa Miller Marqueling

    I agree entirely with you. I don’t think she was portrayed to be weak and the victim….. She was the only character in the movie that had a strong moral compass… She even tried to share that compass with her husband and others.

  • Eric

    Sarah obviously didn’t put words in her mouth. In fact, by accusing Sarah of doing so when she clearly didn’t, MaryAnn put words in Sarah’s mouth. MaryAnn took a conditional “IF” statement and acted as if that was an attack as a cheap excuse to not participate in completely civil and fairly stated debate. Sarah was being very upfront about her questions and the reasons why she had those questions and she was met with nothing but skepticism and evasion from people who apparently don’t want to answer questions, regardless of the reason they’re being posed. How could she have asked these questions in a way that wouldn’t have resulted in defensive shifting?

    And since no one else will answer a simple question, I will…

    1) In regards to the movie, Simon frequently shows that he cares more about himself than Robyn. He lies to her so incessantly that it is hard to believe he sees her as anything but property that has been violated. Simon is basically a psychopath who cares about nothing but what he himself can have and take.

    2) The answer to the broader hypothetical question is OF COURSE a man or woman have the right to be distressed that their spouse is having someone else’s child. Imagine if Gordon hadn’t taped the rape and instead claimed that Robyn and he had an affair. Robyn can claim it’s rape, but it’d be her word versus his and we all know how that usually works out. So now Gordon the rapist is also the biological father of Simon’s child. What if he demanded visitation rights? Joint custody? Can you not see how this is would obviously be a HUGE concern to both Simon and Robyn? The ‘other parent’ doesn’t just melt into the background, you could be tied to them forever (or at least the next 18 years) whether you want to be or not; whether they assaulted your partner or not.

    Now the doesn’t mean you can’t love and care for the child as your own. But just because you love the child doesn’t mean you can’t also be devastated at the situation you find yourself in.

    And I’m frankly shaking my head at the fact that this was a question that anyone thought warranted evasion in the first place.

  • Eric

    Does the movie see Simon as a victim? By the end he’s more like a villain who’s gotten comeuppance. He lost his job, his wife is obviously divorcing him and now the kid may not even be his. He got what he deserved.

    My issue with the movie is the idea that Gordo somehow “saved” Robyn, or that there can be any sort of resolution between them without her knowing the trick he’s played. There’s no doubt in my mind that he didn’t rape her. Both for the reasons you stated, but also because it just didn’t seem to be in Gordo’s personality to do something so explicitly invasive to someone who was actually on his side for the most part. What’s the worst thing he did besides drug her? He killed the fish… and that’s it. Everything else was just messing with Simon’s mind.

    Unfortunately, the drugging is bad enough that Gordo has things of his own to answer for, but the movie doesn’t commit to Robyn being the protagonist and so the full situation is left unresolved. The movie abandons her POV so it can twist the knife in Simon. But that’s also a problem because…

    Simon will know in a matter of months whether or not that kid is his. Once the divorce gets under way, I’m sure he’d evade child payments by revealing “the rape”, at which point a paternity test would give him his answer. The movie wants to pretend he’s going to live with this forever. I don’t think he’d go another month without knowing (he’s got secret files of background checks on people). The only ones who won’t get to see how this plays out is the audience, which annoys the hell out of me.

  • Katy

    Rebecca Hall played the role of Robyn knowing every detail to the script. In doing so she subjected herself into what you would call “sexism”, when in reality its just a movie. Instead of criticizing her for continuing this antifeministic role, you’d rather blame edgerton. Stop feeling like your always being subjected against, if all women felt similar they wouldn’t have agreed to playing the role of Robyn. It’s just a movie, chill!

  • Katy

    Where’s your husband? Does he know your writing this? Women can’t have opinions. Congrats on your huge amount of followers.. must really make a difference in this harsh world you live in.. Katy from below

  • Namey Saket

    While the movie was great, the ending is not quite the revenge that it
    ought to have been. Simon seems to be responsible for his own downfall.
    He got what was coming to him. Read this for the big gap that I’m
    talking about. http://www.thisisbarry.com/#!The-Gift-2015-Explained/ce4s/56756be90cf28854b38c7f2e
    Not a very impressive ending.

  • Aaron

    MaryAnn, thank you for this review. I just finished watching this movie and was left wondering why I felt so bothered by it when it was “supposed” to be so good. You got me thinking!

    One of the things I’m often bothered by in movies is when horrible things are done by “evil” characters to women and children without any hint sympathy from the filmmakers, let alone a storytelling purpose for such abuse. I can only guess that, from the perspective of some filmmakers, they fantasize about superfluous horror just because, well, “because we made the movie and we can do anything we want, so screw you.” And also because, well, who cares about women and children? It’s ONLY a movie…

    In the case of The Gift, the stalking and suggested rape of Robyn is nothing more than an attempt at shocking the audience, which goes hand-in-hand with the film’s failure to care enough about Robyn to develop her character.

    After reading your article and trying to think of reasons the film could have used to portray Robyn as so vacant a character, I wondered if her husband’s bullying nature could have been a factor… But I honestly don’t think the film shows any awareness of that dynamic. I think it’s a failure that they didn’t explore the abusive nature of the husband and it’s effect on Robyn. Again, hand-in-hand…

    I guess I just don’t know what the movie is supposed to be about. It’s good to read an opinion that helps make sense of nagging feelings of disappointment I get when I see films like this. Thank you.

  • trying to think of reasons the film could have used to portray Robyn as so vacant a character

    I doubt the film thinks Robin is vacant. I doubt the filmmakers thought much of anything about her. Making her a real person simply was not a concern.

  • Beau Brown

    Gordo is the baby daddy.

  • Can you explain how this is helpful to a discussion of the problems with the film?

  • demitallanyway

    One thing that bothered me about the writing and/or direction was how the viewer is told—not shown—that Robyn has a career. We get exactly one phone call with a client. If she indeed had a thriving business back in Chicago that she was trying to maintain or, alternately, a new business in LA she was trying to build up, she would’ve been a hell of a lot busier during the day. And what interior designer, who has just moved into a showcase house like that, would be shopping at some Pottery Barn-looking place? She’d be taking her ASID card & browsing high end, to-the-trade showrooms. No, her “career” was only meant to be cute. Something for her patronizing husband to reference at cocktail parties.

    The writer didn’t bother to develop her as a character, he just needed her to be a plot device. A way—the stereotypical way, in fact—for one man to get revenge on another, by invading his sexual territory.

  • daz

    Is there any suggestion within the film that the problems you’ve described about this movie are actually a critique of society the way it is (or mainstream film) or is that just wishful thinking?

  • Nope. No suggestion of awareness at all.

  • daz

    Have finally watched this. It’s pretty clear he didn’t rape her, he only made Simon think he did. And the only reason he was able to do this was because Simon was such a controlling asshole that he was blind to Gordo’s manipulation. I don’t think the movie is open ended about who the father is personally. The key quote at the end is when Gordo says something about sowing the seed in someone’s mind. So Gordo has had his revenge by getting Simon to own up to his own denial about being a bully. Simon slumped down at the end is not that he has had his wife/property apparently violated because, by this point in the movie, Robyn has already told him to fuck off. His deflation/defeat has been caused by his loss of power over Robyn. You didn’t see the final scene as a massive fuck you to Simon? That’s what I saw in Robyn’s face.

  • Jug

    Dear MaryAnn

    I’m a feminist myself because of the strong and wonderful influence of my mother and sister and aunt in my life. Though i have a problem with your review.

    I have to say i think your assuming way too much that Rebecca Hall’s character was poorly written or even disdainfully misogynistic (not your word). I think the stereotype was exactly what it was, a confused woman. Not that does not mean its a reflection of all women out there but you seem to think that Joel Edergarton did this intentionally without any proof. You are absolutely accurate on what the title of the movie refers and the open ended scenario is great for debate. Also if a character like Gordon is willing to go through all that stalking, (filming, drugs, the mystique) are you still going to say ignorance is more likely than fastidiousness? Absolutely not it completely contradicts with the character.

    Probably won’t articulate this in the correct words but i feel it was like a completely defensive response and the review just reeked on emotionally misguided feminism. Woman should be equal as men but does every perception of woman or man need to analyzed with binoculars especially when its just movie or celluloid?

  • Jugraj Nijjar

    I could not articulate this in better words Sarah. Every word VERBATIM is my exact sentiment.

  • emotionally misguided feminism


    does every perception of woman or man need to analyzed with binoculars especially when its just movie or celluloid?


  • Mairi

    I was quite enjoying it till that point paticularly as Robyn’s character just seemed to be a person recovering from some problems following some kind of problem regarding her pregnancy (still birth/ miscarriage).

    If he raped Robyn, I agree it would be odd that there would be no evidence, it might not even be obvious things but I do find it unlikely she would have been assualted and there would have been no evidence. While she might not have known outright, I think she would have had some kind of suspicion. And if you had a suspicion and were in denial, I think when you took a positive pregnancy test you would defintely start driving your self a bit crazy if there was even a slight possibility. We see no evidence of this at all.

    It also seems like a bit of a set up that the time she gets pregnant just so happens to fall into place with the date she fainted, as either Gordo raped her knowing she would get pregnant (impossible), it was just very well timed and worked into his plan later (which seems a unlikely) or we are meant to believe that this is on a different timeframe and Gordo was just waiting till she got pregnant to do this and that Simon is also pretty oblivious to what going on.

    I think biggest issue with Robyn’s character is that she is treated as unimportant the the storyline. The ending doesn’t deal with her at all, because they didn’t want to make her a key character. It’s just treated as if what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, and I really dislike that, especially as pointed out even if she wasn’t sure she was might have has a little doubt and this would likely be a really big issue for her character. The ending just leaves it as she is leaving Simon which is good but it still seems a like for someone who is a major part of the plot, she is treated as not important enough to address properly in the ending. The writers must have agreed that leaving a mystery is more important than that and I like the aspect of a mystery but it just doesn’t fit right.

  • Dean Lapointe

    If robyn wants to leave simon then fine, hopefully the DNA test comes back and the baby’s not his. No child support,yay!.Simon can find a new job easy and Robyn can have a nice single life. She’s ugly anyways. This movie really pissed me off

  • LadyMacgyver

    You’d think a woman would know she was violated. You’d think. Hypothetically, a man could assault a woman he drugged gently, not leaving behind his evidence. Hypothetically my ex partner finally confessed. Hypothetically I was so disgusted I’ve been celibate for 8 years.

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