Gifted Movie Review
The seven-year-old prodigy in Gifted reminds me a lot about me. She’s good at math. I’m good at math. She’s super cute. I’m super cute. She hits bullies in the face with textbooks. I once stared menacingly at a bully while his back was turned to me once.
The similarities go on and on, so really, Gifted is a movie about a female version of me. It’s understandable, then, that Gifted is also one of the best movies of 2017 so far, an easy-to-enjoy, highly entertaining, well-written drama that evokes plenty of laughter and, for those who succumb to the weakness of emotions, a fair amount of feels.
Chris Evans (Captain America) stars as Frank, a man who has lovingly raised his niece, Mary, since she was a baby. Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a math genius, but Frank is insistent that she grows up as a normal child who is able to experience typical kid stuff. Unfortunately, his mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), wants full custody so that she can focus exclusively on advancing her mathematical skills. Jenny Slate stars as Mary’s elementary school teacher.
From Marc Webb, the director of the excellent (500) Days of Summer, Gifted features sharp dialogue, interesting characters and an energetic story that is nearly impossible not to enjoy. While it does become a tad schmaltzy as it goes along and ends exactly where you’d predict it to, Gifted is an exceptional drama the whole family can see.
Evans is terrific in the lead and delivers what is arguably the best performance of his career. His chemistry with co-stars Grace, Slate and Octavia Spencer (who gives a fiery if underutilized performance as his next door neighbor) is through the roof; even if the central plot of the movie had been cut, Gifted still could have thrived based on the character interactions alone.
As for young Mckenna, she’s a treat to watch; she deftly balances her character’s key traits--the desire to simply have fun, while also knowing she is smarter than everyone around her--to create one of the most memorable child performances in recent memory.
Gifted isn’t perfect, however. A weird decision in the third act involving foster parents makes little sense and seems forced into the story simply to amp up the drama and emotional stakes; the whole situation simply isn’t believable. And for all the talk about wanting Mary to grow up and make friends her own age, noticeably absent is any storyline in which Mary bonds with any of her schoolmates; there is one scene where she stands up for a bullied child, but the film never follows through on her potential relationship with the boy.
Nonetheless, Gifted is highly entertaining. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (well, unless you’re emotionally stable such as myself) and you won’t regret the experience. The story ultimately goes in a predictable direction, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
It is, after all, pretty much a movie about me.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.