How long have I been seeing the trailers for this movie? I’d swear I’d been seeing them since late last year. You could seldom go a single movie without seeing this thing attached. The film’s lucky because I did want to see it. I only ever saw the one trailer, but I gotta say that a lot of what I was seeing was winning me over. The story, the acting, the trailer had me in suspense enough. So I was sold pretty hardcore.
But let’s dive into the meat of why I wanted to see this: the cast. Ladies first, co-starring to give the adults a run for their money is young Mckenna Grace (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE , MR. CHURCH , TV show FULLER HOUSE, and upcoming films AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING  and HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER ). At only eleven-years-old, she’s developed a pretty lengthy résumé, mostly in television. ONCE UPON A TIME, DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, she’s certainly been around and it’s easy to see why. She looks pretty charismatic and due for a big break and she looks like she’s giving it her all here. If nothing else, I’m interested to see how much of the show she steals. But we can never forget the veteran star power. Co-starring alongside Grace is the superhero himself, Chris Evans (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , SNOWPIERCER , THE LOSERS , and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ). Captain America. Need I say more? This man is the designated comic book actor. I’d say at least forty percent of his movies have been comic book related. No one’s complaining, since they’ve been great. I’m sorry, what? Something about four fantastic superheroes? That wasn’t a movie. That was a slaughter of brain cells as told by a faithless comic adaptation, so we’re not talking about that. In support, we also have Jenny Slate (THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE , ZOOTOPIA , and TV show PARKS AND REC) Lindsay Duncan (ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS , BIRDMAN , and ABOUT TIME ), and the impossibly amazing Octavia Spencer (THE SHACK , HIDDEN FIGURES , and GET ON UP ).
Now for the crew. Directing is Marc Webb, known for both Amazing Spider-Man films, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009), and TV show CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND. Penning the screenplay is Tom Flynn, known for… a couple of films I’ve never heard of. Composing the music is Rob Simonsen, known for NERVE (2016), THE AGE OF ADELINE (2015), and FOXCATCHER (2014). Finally, the cinematographer is Stuart Dryburgh, known for THE GREAT WALL (2017), ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, and THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (2013).
This was the one movie I was most looking forward to this week and figured it was going to be good. Was it? Did it measure up to my hopes?
This is my honest opinion of: GIFTED
Frank (Chris Evans) has been the legal guardian of his seven-year-old niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) for as long as she can remember after her mother passed away. She lives a decent life, but is now being told to go to regular school with other kids. This, however, goes nuclear when she’s proven to be unusually intelligent, mathematically. Suddenly, their world spins out of control as forces begin to persuade Frank into letting Mary join a school for smart kids, or legally taking custody of Mary to get her the advanced education they think she deserves.
Yes, it’s about as good as I had hoped. Imperfect, but I really liked it.
Again, ladies first, Grace is the show-stealer. She’s absolutely phenomenal and her opening scene perfectly sets up what you’d be in for. She’s in her room, refusing to come out because she doesn’t like how she looks in her new dress for school. When she’s finally coaxed into coming out, she has the most scornful look on her face and stomps to the kitchen saying, “I look like a Disney character.” Bratty, but oh so hilarious. But never mind that, she may talk like a little adult, but this works so well into her character. There’s a scene where she smashes a kid’s face with a book because he tripped another kid and ruined his model presentation, that was bad-ass, but don’t let these examples of her being a brat and a violent-prone girl fool you. She’s just a kid. She has a clear sense of what she wants in her life and when taken away from Frank, will cry, among way too many other things to note. She’s break your heart, make you laugh, she’s amazing. The price of admission was worth it for her alone.
But we can’t forget Evans, now can we? For a guy who can wear a Captain America costume and legitimize it, should I be surprised that he’s got the acting chops to play a loving father-figure who only wants the best for niece? You feel every emotion as he tries to hold on to his custody of Mary, and when it goes south, you feel every inch of his defeat. I mean, here’s a guy who only wants to raise Mary as her mother wanted, but all these people feel like they have the clout to impose what they think is right for the girl. But even he isn’t sure if his choices are the right thing for her, but he’s committed and if there’s anything I like in a well-written character is someone who may not be sure of their actions, but won’t back down from them either.
And the supporting cast is great. Duncan as Evelyn is great as an intellectual woman who sees nothing more noble than the pursuit of human advancement, making her a pretty complex character as she vies for custody over Mary. Slate is amazing as this woman who feels responsible for catapulting the events that would later lead to the custody battle, but only ever tried to do what she felt was right as well. And Spencer as Roberta? What can you say? She the stereotypical black woman with attitude, but she plays the role to well and is as much a scene-stealer as Grace.
However, while I could sing songs about how great the acting is, that’s where a lot of the movie’s likability is banked on because the details within the story sadly have a couple blemishes that don’t hurt the movie too much in my opinion, but do hold it back from being great.
One of the first problems was actually addressed in the trailer. “Do you have health insurance?” “No.” Well… shit, that’s actually kind of big deal then. While the movie addresses this problem, it’s never resolved or even referenced again, even though that’s a valid problem with Frank. What if Mary does get hurt? He lives in a home that’s only just better than a trailer. We can already tell that should that happen, he won’t have the money to afford to pay the hospital, so in retrospect, this whole courtroom business was somewhat destined to happen anyway and the odds of losing Mary to the foster system would be much higher than now. There didn’t seem to a plan for this eventuality.
But I don’t mind that problem as much. What did bother the living crap out of me was how no one was talking to Mary about this whole thing. While everyone initially mystified at Mary’s gifts, as soon as they feel like they have a say in what she should be doing with it, no one, not even Frank, really asks Mary what she wants to do. There’s far too much focus on the court stuff that no one has ever thought to ask, “Mary, would you like to go to a special school to hone your special mind?” Maybe the best outcome would be based on her answer. If she wanted to go to the university to study more, then I’d bet a pound to a penny that Frank would be less resistant to letting her go. Or maybe if it went the other way and she wants to experience childhood normally, then it would force the grandmother to acknowledge whether Mary’s happiness and desires are paramount, or her own ambitions. There’s plenty of ways this situation could have been resolved, much easier, but it never goes in that direction and it really frustrated me.
Other elements that I wish I could have seen more of would be Mary making a real connection to kids her own age. Sure, we get that scene where she compliments that bullied kid’s presentation and got the class to give him a round of applause. That was cute and heartfelt. But… what more? She eventually states that kids her own age are boring but… no, kids that age are anything but boring. She’s never really shown giving kids a chance. Not to mention, for all the weight put on “Mary having friends” her only friend is Roberta, and that’s not enough. While the emotions are justified in the film, they could have been much more powerful if even Mary was conflicted. She’s the focus of the story and yet we barely get a lot of what could tear her up inside if she were to live with either Frank or Evelyn. I went far enough to get the job done, but could have gone much further.
I know a lot of these problems are what’s keeping the critics pretty mixed about this movie and it’s hard to argue. But the focus on the movie is on the characters and I think that pays off very well in the end. So those problems are noticeable, but don’t take away from the enjoyment of the performances, their connections to one another, and how it gets resolved is beautifully done. So I still like this and if you’re as sentimental as I am, then this movie is for you and I highly recommend it. As for anyone else who has a knack for using their brain, you might wanna wait for a rental before committing to this.
My honest rating for GIFTED: 4/5