Gifted review: Chris Evans leads the cast of this endearing drama; a pleasing and enjoyable movie from director Marc Webb.
Gifted review by Andrew Gaudion.
It is hard to disassociate actors from certain roles that they have played, but it is particularly hard to with actors who play superheroes. That is very much the case with Chris Evans, an actor whose social media presence and subsequent choice of roles since playing Captain America (bar his turn in The Iceman) seem designed to cultivate an earnest, good-natured man always trying to do the right thing, even if he’s not always wearing red, white and blue. That argument is certainly evident in his latest Indie-flick, Gifted, a film which positions Evans once again as a figure with a strong and noble moral compass. And it is as endearing as the man himself.
Evans plays Frank, a single boat repairman who lives in a small town near Tampa with his young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace), whom he has raised for most of her life since the tragic death of his sister. Mary has exhibited exceptional intelligence throughout her young life, and it soon becomes apparent that she is something of a mathematical genius. When Frank’s estranged mother Evelyn (Lindsey Duncan) gets wind of her granddaughter’s gift, she takes Frank to court in a battle over whom should get custody of Mary and be in charge of what direction her future should take.
You can easily imagine the pitch meeting for Gifted having the line ‘it’s Kramer vs. Kramer meets Good Will Hunting’ being bandied about the meeting. It is a rather apt description, as this film operates within well-trodden ground of previous movies which deal with familial conflict, all the while featuring the hallmarks of Good Will Hunting, namely complex sums being completed on a blackboard set to a score of stirringly inspirational music. As a result, nothing all that surprising happens over the course of Gifted’s brisk 101 minute run-time, but just enough character quirks and affecting performances allow this familial drama to remain involving, if not particularly inspired.
The script by Tom Flynn does very well to establish the relationship between Frank and Mary with an immediate rapport being established. Their home feels lived in, their dialogue natural and the chemistry between Evans and Mckenna is instantly charming. Mckenna does walk the fine line of cute and pretentious, but she plays incredibly well against the paternal warmth of Evans’ performance. Director Marc Webb utilises this obvious strength, giving the pair a lot of scenes in which they are just chatting, with Mary asking inquisitive questions and Frank answering them as honestly as he can. It allows for the conflict between Frank and his mother and the threat of separation to feel palpable, even if a lot of what follows in the courtroom drama occasionally feels trite.
Gifted does lose its footing on a couple of scenes which attempt to wring out emotion. One scene in which Frank and Mary go to a hospital to witness families being told of a new arrival feels very forced and manipulative at a point where the film doesn’t particularly need such a grand gesture. What keeps Webb’s film on course in moments of more overt and sentimental drama is the cast. While Evans and Mckenna charm together, Lindsay Duncan offers a great deal of depth as Frank’s mother. She is not the clear-cut evil Grandmother that you might initially expect the film to characterise her as. Duncan’s performance brings a lot of complexity to Evelyn, a well-intentioned if narrow-minded mother and grandmother, who is haunted by the passing of her daughter. The characterisation of Evelyn in particular is an element of the film which takes you by surprise and allows Gifted to offer more than what the surface of its predictable premise offers.
You won’t win any prizes for guessing how Gifted resolves its conflict, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the journey to its resolve. Like Evans himself, the film is a good-natured, easily likeable experience that may not test convention, but plays out in a satisfying and affecting manner.
Gifted review by Andrew Gaudion, June 2017.
Gifted is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th June 2017.