Film review by Jason Day of Gifted, about a seven year old maths prodigy who is raised by her uncle to live as normal a life as possible. Starring Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace and Lindsay Duncan.
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Despite opposition from his mother (Lindsay Duncan) in court, a former Professor (Chris Evans) battles to keep his infant genius niece (McKenna Grace) at home with him, to give her a relatively normal upbringing.
Whilst this won’t win any big prizes in terms of originality (we’ve seen this kind of mouthy/socially awkward prodigy negotiating the big adult world before on the big screen), it strikes the right family disharmony chord as two adult geniuses fight the quietest, most polite of Courtroom battles over an infant prodigy.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the performances; all round these are solid, capable turns from some serious Hollywood talent. Octavia Spencer (as I have noted previously, in my review for Hidden Figures, 2016) can play this kind of sassy, intelligent, working class mother figure with her talent tied behind her back and it’s good to see Evans essaying something deeper than showing off his enviable physique (alas, the hidden figure here) in cartoonish schlock like Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, and subsequent sequels). Duncan, a rare addition to American movies, is also in fine fettle as his emotionally cold English mother.
I just felt underwhelmed throughout. True, we don’t have any crazed blackboard scribbling and heated, autistic argument as with Shine (1993) A Beautiful Mind (2001) but with it’s only occasional, very grey humour and too easy-going nature, Gifted felt like dull drama with the life cut out.
(And, although I hate to bang on about anti-English bias in American movies, it is underlined strongly throughout this film that these are British people despite Evans’ US accent. Perhaps that’s why everyone is so impeccably well mannered, as rather nasty familial secrets are probed in front of a family court Judge).
Grace is an appealing little ball of pre-pre teen angst, smart mouthed and spirited, but deeply fragile, as all geniuses in Hollywood movies grow-up to be. We leave her in a College lecture theatre, thriving amongst her adult peers with her uncle waiting patiently outside, a sweetly realised ending to those ever so grown-up courtroom jousts. The vastness and sparkling intellect of her awesome brain is contrasted well with the tiny, flea-bitten setting of her down and out Florida home. If Mary is allowed to grow up on film, this is at least one kiddy braniac I would like to revisit.
Director Webb, formerly a music video whizz for amongst others Avril Lavigne and Evanescence, also helmed the two Amazing Spiderman films starring Andrew Garfield.
Cast & credits
Director: Marc Webb. 101mins. DayDay Films/Fox Searchlight/Grade A Entertainment. (12a)
Producers: Andy Cohen, Karen Lunder.
Writer: Tom Flynn.
Camera: Stuart Dryburgh.
Music: Rob Simonsen.
Sets: Laura Fox.
Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Michael Kendall Kaplan, John M. Jackson, Glenn Plummer.