I want to be worthy of writing this summary but, even if I blow it, you should see Gifted (2017). Firstly, what's not to like about Chris Evans. Yes, he's best known for playing Captain America in all those Marvel blockbusters but, if you haven't seen his self- directed Before We Go (2014), do yourself a favor and watch it on Netflix soon. In Gifted, he plays the kind of father every little girl deserves, and wishes she had.
Gifted is a beautifully filmed (and edited), heartfelt story about parenting and familial conflict that's as real and insightful as it is funny: its fully developed characters are perfectly cast with actors that deliver spot on performances. The narrative backdrop involves how to best raise a genius child.
Evans plays Frank Adler, whose brilliant mathematician sister Diane took her own life and left him with an infant to raise 6 1/2 years ago. McKenna Grace plays Mary, Frank's 7-year-old niece to whom the movie's title refers. Olivia Spencer (who seems to appear in everything lately) plays Roberta, their neighbor, friend and weekend babysitter.
As the film opens, Roberta is scolding Frank for putting Mary on a school bus that morning. He believes that Mary is socially awkward and needs to spend time with friends her own age instead of contemplating the future of the Euro. Roberta is afraid that Mary will be taken away from Frank, a fear that is warranted as the story plays out.
Jenny Slate plays Mary's first grade teacher Mrs. Stevenson (aka Bonnie), who notices the child's extraordinary gifting which, although she didn't wish it, ends up bringing Mary to the attention of Frank's estranged mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Obsessed with her own daughter's mathematical gifts, Evelyn had driven away Diane's friends, leaving her socially immature, which may have contributed to the suicide.
These details come to light during a custody battle for Mary between Frank and Evelyn in the courtroom of Judge Nichols (John M. Jackson); Glenn Plummer is excellent as Frank's attorney. She argues that Frank, who was an Assistant Philosophy Professor at a northeastern university when Diane was alive but now fixes boats in the Florida town where he moved Mary, is not adequately providing for her granddaughter. However, it becomes clear that what she really wants is to use Mary as she did Diane to fulfill her own ambitions - Evelyn still regrets having given up a promising career when she'd married - to complete an historically significant and as yet unresolved math problem.
In the meantime, what we see is that Frank is truly committed to Mary's well-roundedness. He doesn't give answers to most of her questions so that she is free to come to her own conclusions. There's an ironic scene in which the two are playing on the beach silhouetted against a brilliant orange sky while the sun sets and yet Frank doesn't confirm the existence of its creator when Mary asks if there is a God.
In my favorite scene, Frank demonstrates unparalleled parenting ability when he takes Mary, in tears because her biological father didn't even try to see her while in town as Evelyn's pawn, to the maternity ward of a hospital so that she can witness the loving celebration of family that occurred when she was born vicariously.
Olivia Spencer is marvelous, her character a stabilizing force of fun for Mary, and so is Jenny Slate as Bonnie, with whom Frank journeys into an unwise relationship; fortunately Frank's indiscretion with Mary's teacher doesn't become a factor in court. Instead, their interactions are used to further reveal Frank's personality and parental philosophy; these more lighthearted and humorous scenes serve to balance the serious nature of the custody trial.
Lastly, Miss Grace is excellent as Mary, making her character's genius believable (though it's dismaying that her smarts are too often translated as sarcasm). There are some really sweet scenes between Frank and Mary, but also several involving her teacher, first grade classmates, and one-eyed cat Fred.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy - his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. Frank's plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old's mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary's landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary's teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well.
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July 11, 2017 at 06:00 AM