Gifted: A Review
I'm going to be honest with all of you, I like a good white bummer movie. What is a white bummer movie you may be asking? A white bummer movie is a movie in which white people have problems, and spend the run time talking about those problems and sometimes....sometimes we will get some happy white people at the end of it. They are the movies that are usually featured predominantly during awards season and make you wonder "Who the hell goes to see this shit?". I do. I see that shit. Movies like Spotlight, Still Alice and Manchester by the Sea are all examples of real white bummer movies and while flicks like Moonlight and Lion have been Black and Indian bummers respectively, there is still no one who likes to be bummed out more than white people. Gifted is certainly a white bummer movie and it has all the ingredients, first world problems, a hunky dude with a child that is not his daughter and Octavia Spencer. As I said before I like white bummer movies and while Gifted is not a bad one it does have it's problems. Ready to get bummed out and learn about mathematics! I swear this movie is not that boring.
Gifted tells the story of a seven year old girl named Mary who is not like the other kids at her school. While they are learning how to add 2 to 2 she is doing long form multiplication in her head and being sassy as all get out. She lives with her uncle Frank who until this year has home schooled Mary, but has determined "I have nothing left to teach you". Frank repairs boats as a job, but over time we realize that Frank is not as intellectually stunted as his job or living situation would suggest. Mary is against going to school as is the neighbor Roberta who warns Frank that something will happen if Mary goes to a public school. As it turns out Mary quickly grabs the attention of not only her teacher Bonnie, but also the principle of the school. As it turns out Mary is quite advanced for her age and in fact may be intellectually gifted (hey that's the name of the movie). Frank resists persuasions to movie Mary into a private school where her mathematics will take up most of if not all of her time. Frank believes that Mary's mother (A math genius herself) wanted Mary to have a normal childhood and not be "Stuck in a room talking mathematics with Russian guys for the rest of her life". When Frank's mother and Marys grandmother enters the picture and tries to win full custody of Mary, well......that's where we get the bulk of our plot.
While Gifted does not boast the most exciting plot or witty writing I have ever seen, it does do something interesting, it never really tells you who the good guy is. Yes, we follow the story of Frank and Mary trying to help each other get through life and then evil Grandma (Or Evelyn) comes in to try to take Mary away, but you think....maybe she should. Mary has a gift, this is referred to in a number of ways such as one in a billion or once in a lifetime but you get the point. At the start you side with Frank, This little girl does deserve to have as normal a life as possible but as the movie moves and we start to learn more about Mary and Frank you have to reconsider that. It is an interesting way to gain a little bit of extra pretty well earned drama into you movie, which like I said before is lacking a bit in that category. This is possible because of the strong characters that inhabit the movie. They are not necessarily the most memorable or long lasting characters, but they feel real and that goes a long way.
Chris Evans is becoming one of my favorite actors working. We all know about his work as Captain America but this is a guy who has been at this for a long time. After seeing the 2013 Sci-Fi action movie Snowpiercer starring Evans I have been more than a fan, I have kept a close eye on him. Gifted is almost the perfect role for Evans, he has this relatable every man quality, while still looking like a movie star. The role of Frank requires a lot and he carries most of this movie but Evans makes it look easy. Mckenna Grace is given the difficult task of playing Mary, and to be honest she is fine. Mary is a a tough task to portray, she has to be smarter than almost every person she comes in contact with, while still being a kid and fulfilling that part of the role, not to mention she has quite the attitude. These can be difficult to convey for an adult actor but Mckenna Grace does a fine job. There have been some outstanding child performances in the last few years, Room and Beasts of the Southern Wild come to mind, and while Mckenna Grace's performances falls short of those, it is no reason to give this movie a second thought.
I did not get to mention director Marc Webb, known for (500) Days of Summer and both Amazing Spider-Man re-boots who stays out of the way of the movie. He brings a professional grip to the this movie, but adds little other than that. This is really the way Gifted feels as a whole, it is not a bad movie, but it also not a great one. It does nothing extraordinarily well but it does not make you hate yourself for watching it. The first act moves well and even when it slows down considerably towards the end, it usually finds a way to move to a new scene. I can always appreciate a movie under the 2 hour mark, and while it felt a little long the 1 hour and 47 minute run time is nothing to really complain about. If you enjoy these types of movies then you probably will find at least some enjoyment from Gifted. It is a decently made movie with decent writing and some well done characters. I did not find myself shedding tears by the end but my eyes did get misty a few times and that emotion is necessary. SO.....if you want a white bummer movie, other than Logan this is probably your best bet so far this year.