By: Oberst von Berauscht –
Mary (McKenna Grace) is a seven year old math prodigy who lives with her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans) in a working class Florida town. Her Mother, a math prodigy too, killed herself when Mary was just a baby. Frank saw what the years of obsessive tutoring and homeschooling did to his sister and wants nothing but for Mary to have as normal of a life as possible, so he enters her into public school. Soon enough, Frank’s mother Evelyn, who was responsible for his sister’s shrewd upbringing, shows up to insist upon a similarly closed-door education for Mary.
McKenna Grace is well cast as a girl whose academic intelligence level is well above her classmates, but whose social skills are considerably stunted. The emotional core of the story, she reacts to her classmates very believably. Not unusual for a gifted student, she relates much more to adults around her, and Octavia Spencer’s solid turn as next door neighbor and friend Roberta is yet more proof of her deftness as a performer. Spencer and Evans teamed up once before, though this film has a somewhat smaller bodycount.
Chris Evans is at his dramatic best as Frank, a man who fears so much that his niece will go through the same experiences as her mother that he overcompensates in the opposite direction.
Gifted is no gift to comedian-actress Jenny Slate, who is wasted in the role as Mary’s teacher. Introduced at first as the prototypical teacher who sees through her brilliant student’s precociousness, what follows after this is a predictable romantic subplot that fizzles out of energy quickly, and by the end is basically a footnote.
An early bar scene is the only moment in which her character really gets any development, and it admittedly hints at something more that might have existed in other cuts.
This is a story that has been played out in numerous custody-battle dramas over and over again, and Gifted follows that arc without any diversion. The most notable aspect being a simply resolvable dispute that two hard-headed people refuse to handle without expensive lawyers. As Mary’s domineering grandmother Evelyn, Lindsay Duncan perhaps could have been advised to tone down the megalomania a bit. Her over the top performance is up there with the best of mustache-twirling villains. Marc Webb might have taken the wrong lessons from big-budget comic book filmmaking.
I don’t mean to be too hard on Gifted with this point, because it amounts to a potboiler story told with enthusiasm by a game cast of actors who do their damndest with the material that is given to them. Those looking to see Chris Evans do something different than Captain America should be satisfied.
Gifted is a quirky, often compelling film that leans heavily on solid performances from its cast to overcome some overused genre clichés.
Gifted (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever McKenna Grace scowls in contempt with a stink-face
Take a Drink: for math
Take a Drink: for courtroom-drama conjecture
Do a Shot: for on-the-nose soundtrack music