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Film / The Ultimate Gift

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"I wanna give you a gift, a series of gifts, leading up to, well... how 'bout call it 'the ultimate gift'."
Howard "Red" Stevens, via Video Will

The Ultimate Gift is a 2006 American drama film based on the best-selling novel of the same name.

It opens with Mr. Hamilton (Bill Cobbs) being informed of the death of his long-time friend and colleague Howard "Red" Stevens (James Garner). At the reading of his will, Jason, Red's grandson, learns that his grandfather has a gift for him, "the ultimate gift", but only if he can complete a series of tasks, and learn the lessons embedded in them.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Having your child predecease you is the worst thing a parent can possibly experience, as Red and Alexia can attest.
  • Becoming the Mask: Jason towards Emily. He only befriended her for the condition on the will, but eventually becomes a father figure to her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, Jason finishes all the challenges, becomes a billionaire, and gets together with Alexia, but Emily dies.
  • Bookends: At Red's funeral, a series of statues framed by dark clouds are shown to set the scene in the graveyard. When Emily dies, the same statues are seen from the same angles, with a clear blue sky in the background.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Red wished to be buried under Texas soil. His relatives pour some sand on his coffin at the funeral in North Carolina.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Jason is revealed to have spent his trust fund on such luxuries as chauffeured hot-air balloon tours of Bordeaux, $25,000 a night hotel rooms with a private chef, and a wide variety of luxury cars. His Thanksgiving dinner shows that his family is as prone to this consumption, with several full turkeys for the family.
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  • Cowboy: Gus. Jason isn't too shabby himself, once he gets into it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Emily is not afraid to speak her mind. Jason has his moments, as well.
  • Dying Alone: The only two people in the world who mattered to Emily were absent when she passes on.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Or at least as happy as you can be when the Littlest Cancer Patient bites it.
  • Fair Weather Friend: After Jason's stuff is taken and his account is frozen, no one is willing to help him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Only by a minute, sure, but when Jason is bringing Alexia's purse to the hospital and walks under the sign for the Children's Oncology Unit...
    • Emily's comment to Hamilton:
      "I plan on knowing Jason for the rest of my life"
  • Gold Digger: Jason's girlfriend Caitlin. The rest of Jason's family seems to be this also.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jason's father died trying to deliver medicine to a plagued village in Ecuador. At least that's what Red told Jason. In fact, Jason's father grew tired of Red trying to push him into the family's oil business, took the plane and went for a flight. The plane ended up crashing on a mountain, and Red couldn't bring himself to tell Jason the truth.
  • Idle Rich: Jason and his entire extended family. He gets better, though. Averted with an old friend of his grandfather's, who owns a huge ranch in Texas and still prefers to work with his hands even in his old age.
  • Ill Girl: Emily.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Red feels this way about all his family, but thinks Jason could redeem himself.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Jason and Emily.
  • Jerkass: An entire family of 'em. Jason starts out as the biggest one of them all.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jason's character arc, in a nutshell.
  • Last Disrespects: Red's family at his funeral, from snide comments to showing up late and interrupting the pastor with your "muffler" that does nothing of the sort.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Emily.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Emily, though we don't know it at first.
  • Meal Ticket: Caitlin sees Jason as this, and abandons him when he asks her to pay for dinner when his account is frozen.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Emily dies while Jason and Alexia are pitching Emily's Home to investors.
  • Nice Guy: Jason after his arc.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Red's old friend Gus, who owns a huge ranch in Texas and still works alongside his ranch-hands.
    Gus: Wish I had a dollar for every fence post I've ever set. [Beat] Matter a fact, I do. [Chuckles]
  • Ominous Hair Loss: By the end, Emily has lost her hair, a depressing parallel to what she used to look like.
  • On One Condition: The only way Jason can collect his inheritance is by fulfilling Red's challenges.
  • Parental Substitute: Jason, for Emily
  • Posthumous Character: Red is dead at the beginning of the film, but continues to exert his will through his Video Will.
  • Rich Bitch: Any of the women in Jason's family.
  • Sent Off to Work for Relatives: One of Jason's first "gifts" is the gift of hard work. He is sent to a ranch in the middle of nowhere, to work for a close friend of his grandfather's, until he understands the value of hard work.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Mostly idealistic.
  • Socialite
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Jason's entire family indulges in this during a rather tense Thanksgiving dinner. Him not participating in the slander is one of the earliest signs that he's taking what the gifts have taught him to heart.
  • Spoiled Brat: Jason's cousins.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Averted. Jason and Alexia planned on being at Emily's side when she succumbed to her illness, but could not get to the hospital in time.
  • Stepford Snarker: Emily, in spades.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Red, to humorous effect.
  • Title Drop: Red in his Video Will:
    Red: I wanna give you a gift, a series of gifts, leading up to, well... how 'bout call it "the ultimate gift".
  • Video Will: The plot device that sets Jason's journey into motion.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Emily, as expected of a Littlest Cancer Patient.

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