After a 3-year break, director Marc Webb (of “500 Days Of Summer” fame) has finally made his return with a small-scale feature, “Gifted”. This also marks his first movie since “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” in 2014.
Adapted from an original script by Tom Flynn, the movie stars “Captain America: Civil War” actor Chris Evans as Frank Adler, the “damaged, hot-type” uncle who is trying his best to give his 7-year-old niece named Mary Adler (played by Grace McKenna) a “normal life”. The problem is, Mary is a math prodigy.
The film begins with Frank, who has been home-schooling Mary for years, sending a grudging Mary to a regular elementary school in Florida. His landlady and close friend Roberta (played by Octavia Spencer) stomps into his house and demands him to withdraw Mary’s enrolment because she’s afraid that somebody might take her away. At school, Mary impresses her homeroom teacher Bonnie (played by Jenny Slate) with her mad counting skills. When the principal visits her class, Mary yells at her rudely in order to go home. This leads to Frank’s cliché first meeting with Bonnie, who he unsurprisingly sleeps with later.
One day, Mary witnesses an older kid bullying one of her classmates and breaks the bully’s nose with a book. When Frank meets the principal, she offers him a scholarship that will allow Mary to study in an elite school for geniuses. However, Frank declines. What does the principal do? She calls his mother.
Frank’s “very British” mother, Evelyn (played by Lindsay Duncan), is designed to be the most unlikable character in the whole movie. Frank and her are polar opposites – Frank is simple and down-to-earth while Evelyn is arrogant, controlling, and manipulative. We also learned that Mary’s talents runs in her blood. While Frank is a former Philosophy professor at Boston University, Mary’s mother was a celebrated mathematician who committed suicide after giving birth to Mary. And as a result, Evelyn, who was also a mathematician herself, wants to raise her precocious grandchild as a genius and hence files a custody lawsuit against her own son.
So here comes the big question: What is the best way to raise a gifted child?
It’s not hard to see who’s winning the race, if you asked us. The movie clearly wants its viewers to choose Frank over Evelyn. And that’s the problem with “Gifted” – it has fallen prey to predictability. It gives viewers little to no room to think about what’s best for Mary. To be honest, a part of us actually wanted Mary to follow her grandmother because we felt that there’s so much more to Evelyn than meets the eye.
However, despite the formulaic plot, “Gifted” is also blessed with a solid cast. We enjoyed watching Chris Evans play a non-superhero role in a non-action film. The actor has been playing Captain America for so long that we forgot that he’s actually a very good actor. In the film, his chemistry with young Grace McKenna feels so real that it will melt your heart.
Speaking of McKenna, she is no less “gifted”. Considering her age (she’s only 10!), her portrayal of Mary felt natural and unforced. She definitely stole our hearts with her long doll-like lashes, toothless grin, and gutsy attitude. She kinda reminded us of Drew Barrymore’s Gertie in “E.T.” too.
All in all, “Gifted” is a sweet, heartwarming comedy-melodrama that centres around family values. It’s the kind of movie that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
By the time the credits roll, you’ll find yourself caring about the fate of all the characters, including Fred the one-eyed cat.
Watch the trailer here:
“Gifted” hits Malaysian cinemas on 27th April 2017.
For more information, hit up the film’s Facebook page.
Featured image: teaser-trailer.com.