Gifted: A Formulaic Yet Effective Drama That Tugs On Familiar Heartstrings (Review)

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From time to time, a movie comes along that has the same formula that we’ve all seen numerous times in past films. Gifted is one of the few that sticks to a familiar formula, but is still effective overall. Is it a perfect movie? Not at all. Is it predictable at times? Yes, it is. Is it enjoyable to watch? Surprisingly, yes. Mainly, this is because it is led by a great cast and a wonderful vision from Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer).

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Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.


As I touched on earlier, the acting in Gifted is fantastic. Led by Chris Evans (The Avengers, 2012) who plays Frank and Mckenna Grace (Designated Survivor, 2016) who plays math prodigy Mary. The chemistry these two share makes the entire movie. Every scene they share is funny, heartwarming, and even relatable. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, 2016) also has a small role as Roberta, one of Mary’s only friends in her small Florida town. As always, Spencer is great and good for comic relief in a few scenes. One of the big surprises was Evelyn, played by Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland). Evelyn is Mary’s grandmother, who wants custody of her so she can help Mary see her full potential as a math prodigy. I’ll go ahead and say it, I think Duncan could get an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. I know it’s early in the year, but it’s a bold prediction. She had some GREAT scenes, especially in the courtroom.

Mary is the most enjoyable character in Gifted. She has a lot of funny moments and some serious ones, both well acted. She never knew her mother Diane, who was one of the smartest mathematicians in the world. Diane committed suicide shortly after Mary was born. Like her mother, Mary is a one in a billion math genius. You really get an idea of that on her first day of school and she demonstrates to her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) that she can solve very advanced math problems.  Her father never met her either, so Frank took Mary from Boston to Florida after Diane ended her life because he claims that is what Diane would have wanted. At the end of the day, he isn’t her legal guardian. Frank just wants Mary to have a normal life. This proves to be difficult because Mary is far from normal. She is extremely intelligent for her age and she can’t relate to her classmates. Evelyn wants Mary to pursue the mathematician route, even though it killed her daughter Diane. The feud between Frank and Evelyn is executed very well. They don’t hate each other, they just don’t see eye to eye on Mary’s future.

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It was nice to see Chris Evans put the Captain America Shield down and show us that he can turn in a good, dramatic performance. I was skeptical about him, but he surprised me. Between the comedic scenes and the emotional ones, Evans was pretty impressive. Gifted did a good job of making you feel sorry for him in the situation. He realized that he wasn’t there for his sister Diane when she committed suicide, and now he feels like he’s losing the one person left that he cares about.

As effective as Gifted is, it is still pretty predictable. There are two or three scenes that you can see coming from a mile away. This comes back to it following the familiar formula of a custody battle film. It would have been a big problem if the entire movie was predictable, but since it was only a few scenes you’re willing to forgive it.

From a technical standpoint, Gifted has a few issues. The audio was very inconsistent and some popping could be heard during a few dialogue exchanges. Some of the dialogue sounded a little muffled, and it was distracting. Other than that, the cinematography and camera blocking was solid.

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Overall, Gifted is a surprisingly compelling drama. It has the ability to make you laugh, smile and cry. It may not be the most original film to come out this year, but it is definitely worth checking out in theaters.

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