Starring: Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, Octavia Spencer, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Glenn Plummer
Directed By: Marc Webb
Plot: Frank (Evans) is raising his niece (Grace) the best way he knows how following his sister’s untimely death. But when his mother (Duncan) comes into the picture, a custody battle ensues. It turns out, she just might be one of the greatest mathematical minds of her generation…just like her mother.
What Works: It’s a dramatic project that allows Chris Evans to show his range. It feels like the “test project” for something bigger for him. Like, this was the film that we all realized he could act in. But it’s not his Oscar nomination. That comes later, after the director of that future project sees Gifted and realizes Evans has this undercurrent of talent beyond his Captain America role. I’m split on McKenna Grace. On one hand, she had a lot to do, and actually came across as childlike and not too grown up. On the other, she often read every single line with the same discontent, so it was like her character was perpetually pissed off, even though she really wasn’t. She just happened to read every line like she was still angry about something, even if her character wasn’t. Spencer is fine. Her character has very little to do. Same with Jenny Slate. Lindsay Duncan sweeps in mid-film and does a really good job being an unrelenting bitch.
What Doesn’t Work: It’s a fine film, but it does very little to elevate itself beyond “the best Lifetime movie of the year.” Like, it still feels very melodramatic, but in a way we’ve seen so many times before. Just…done well. There’s nothing really original about this film. It’s a formulaic custody battle drama that was shot well, and acted well. So I don’t really have any actual complaints, except that I know I’m not watching greatness. I know I’m just watching a good film. Not a great one. It’s like this film was aiming for B+ and it did everything right to be a B+ film, It was never concerned with being an A film, or being original enough to be remembered five years from now. It’s an odd choice from Marc Webb, whose 500 Days Of Summer is remembered still for its originality, even in a familiar plot. This film lacks that originality, but executes everything as it should.
Final Word: I wasn’t blown away by Gifted, but it is a good movie. It just isn’t a great movie. It’s the kind of film I’m destined to forget in five years, because there isn’t anything specifically memorable about it. It’s all just “good enough” for the moment, and is a nice way to pass the time. I was bouncing back and forth between B and B+, but I’m going with B+ because there really isn’t anything wrong with the film, specifically, other than its heavy handed genericness.
Final Grade: B+