Movie Review: “Gifted”
Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a brilliant young mathematician who lives with her uncle Frank (Chris Evans). Frank has been doing his best to give Mary a normal childhood, but Mary is anything but normal. She does not have friends her age and her brilliant math skills do not go unnoticed at her school. When her teacher discovers her gift, she is offered a full scholarship at a private school that could challenge Mary and allow her to reach her full potential.
Frank does not believe that this is what is best for Mary, as he wants her to experience as normal of a childhood as she can. Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) on the other hand wants Mary to reach her full potential and does not approve of Mary's quality of life with Frank. This puts the family at odds and makes them face an important dilemma about what is more important in life. Should Mary get a normal childhood or should she be overworked to reach her full potential and possibly even change the world?
The Pros & Cons
Chris Evans & Mckenna Grace (+10pts)
The Past (-2pts)
Pro: Parenting (+6pts)
This was a question that worked really well for this story. How do you raise a child genius? Both sides had their flaws, but both made compelling arguments. While I think the right answer falls somewhere between the opinions of Frank and Evelyn, I liked watching two people who both cared about the girl, but had completely opposite ideas of what was best for her. You will know that both characters have good intentions, so you will find yourself flip-flopping, unable to say with one hundred percent certainty which one was more right.
I also thought that Frank was a good parental figure because he seemed to have a well thought out answer to everything. At first, this bothered me. He seemed like a perfect parent which is something that bothers me in movies. However, as the movie went on, the movie gave a quick explanation for this, and it made a lot of sense. The movie showed Frank make mistakes, which is an incredibly important part in making the character relatable. This really hit home when Franks said what his greatest fear was. This movie had some minor issues, but I think found the question of how to parent Mary was a compelling one.
Con: Focus (-5pts)
I think this movie worked best when the filmmakers kept the focus on the conflict over what was best for Mary. Watching Mary and her relationships with both Evelyn and Frank, it was clear that both wanted what is best for her, but they had very opposing views on what that meant. This movie was at its best when it was comparing the different ideals of each character, but I thought the filmmakers had trouble creating an interesting plot to go around the moral dilemma. The filmmakers used a custody lawsuit between Frank and Evelyn, and I did not think this storyline was very interesting. It unfortunately felt as though the filmmakers focused too heavily on the lawsuit, which ended up creating a predictable, and at times boring, story.
Pro: Emotional (+5pts)
This was an entertaining drama that had some laughs and a few really emotional, dramatic scenes. These scenes are memorable, impactful, and will hit emotionally. These scenes showed Mary dealing with abandonment and the idea that no one truly cared about her. More importantly theses scenes showed how Frank handled the situation. In one scene he handled it perfectly, but in another he messed it up big time.
I think all of these scenes worked really well and I think audiences will really respond to them. This was a dramatic story about a girl who did not feel normal, but the loss of her parents also made her feel alone and unwanted. It was also about a man (Frank) who tried to raise his niece after the passing of her parents, even though he still mourned the loss as well. Both characters took very different baggage into their relationship together, and their shared grief made for a number of impactful, emotional scenes.
Con: Evelyn (-5pts)
I really did not like how heavily Evelyn was vilified in this movie. I thought the actress, Lindsay Duncan, played the role well and I thought that Evelyn was understandably the antagonist of the movie, because of the two, Frank was definitely the primary character. My problem was with the fact that Evelyn was portrayed as the polar opposite of Frank. She basically saw Mary's happiness as a secondary goal and that Mary's primary focus should be math all day and every day.
I think most people fall somewhere between Frank and Evelyn's viewpoints, but I think most people will lean closer to Frank because of how extreme Evelyn's point-of-view was. I think the movie could and would have been so much better if it brought Evelyn's point-of-view to a somewhat more realistic and relatable place. Fully understanding both opposing sides is when a movie like this works the best, because it forces the audience to choose between two sides that they completely understand. There was a little of that in this movie, but for the most part, the choice was pretty easy.
Pro: Chris Evans & McKenna Grace (+10pts)
Arguably the most important part of the film, was the relationship between Frank and Mary, and I thought Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace had strong chemistry together. They worked well together as a child-parent duo, but they also worked well individually, which only improved their relationship together when the two characters came back together. Together, they had strong chemistry during both comedic and dramatic moments. I bought that the two had a unique bond with one another, and that they both cared greatly for the other. However, based on the two character's individual stories, I also bought the tension that rose in their relationship.
Pretty much nothing about this movie would have worked if these two actors did not pull off the relationship between Mary and Frank. I thought McKenna Grace and Chris Evans did a great job with these two characters all around. It was entertaining to watch them interacting with each other in scenes that would have been boring if the two actors did not work well together, they were amusing in their more light-hearted moments together, and they were captivating in their more dramatic moments together. I really enjoyed this movie and I believe that these two actors, and their chemistry together, are the primary reasons why.
Con: The Past (-2pts)
The movie just kind of started. There was no setup as to what happened to Mary's parents, how Frank came to be her guardian, or what happened to the rest of the family. The movie just kind of started by showing Frank and Mary's relationship together. I appreciated this because the movie was not about the past, it was about Mary, Frank, and the difficulties that came with raising a child genius. I enjoyed this aspect of the movie until all of the main characters were talking about the past or wondering about the past constantly. It is fine if you skip the origin of the main characters if the characters do not repeatedly focus on that origin. The movie definitely did not need a long, drawn out setup, but I felt there should have been at least a quick scene or two to show the characters beforehand, as it would have allowed the audience to connect with the characters more effectively.
Grade: B- (84pts)
Gifted was a decent, dramatic and emotional movie. It had its issues, but it was an emotional drama that challenged the relationship between a niece and uncle dealing with grief, but it also presented interesting questions regarding what is best for a child and how to raise a child genius. This story dealt with complex emotions like guilt and abandonment after the death of a loved one, while also being an amusing, and at times light-hearted, movie that was filled with heart. None of this would have worked if it were not for Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace. Their characters were fun to watch together, and I found their individual stories compelling. If you are looking for an emotional drama, with characters that you can easily get invested in, then I can recommend watching this movie.