Movie Review: Gifted is a Gift

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Gifted (2017)

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Director: Marc Webb

Starring: Chris Evans, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer

Rotten Tomatoes: 64% (Really expected this to be higher. Alright (shrugs) 6.3/10 (ridiculously low and almost shameful). 85% liked it.  I would say accurate.

IMDb: 7.7 of 1,093 (Once again, I side with IMDb far more. Just makes more sense to me.)

Basic Plot:

A young girl named Mary is a genius with a strong sense of mathematics and there is a debate about how she should be treated. This film examines the various benefits and pitfalls that come with people with very  high intelligence.

What I Didn’t Like:

I have little to complain about with this movie. Yes, the plot was predictable. I knew how it was going to end before seeing it, but I was unsure how it would get to that point. This film surprised me a little bit in that  sense.  To be fair, most movies I watch follow a pattern I’m familiar with. The characters are what make any story worthwhile. It’s all about the ride, not the destination (and this film was an entertaining ride). If you need a film that is a game-changer or which breaks your heart. This isn’t it,  it focuses on what it does well and follows that to create a solid movie.

I get bent when the academy appears to loathe happiness. I’m well aware that we as humans learn about ourselves in the most trying of times. That pain and suffering leads to some form of enlightenment. However, I see no fault in occasionally embracing a more positive aspect in life.  That we suffer, we fight, and sometimes we actually win. This happens and we shouldn’t ignore the fact. This film explores both sides of this aspect.

If you need a film that ruins your evening or makes you seek counseling for depression, (aka half of all modern Oscar films), then this film isn’t working for you.

The only other issue I had is the use of Octavia Spencer as Roberta. Spencer is  wonderful in this role, but I wished she had a bit more impact in the movie. I wanted to see her interaction more with various people and have her have extra emotional impact.

What I Did Like:

What a time to be alive. First, we saw the amazing Dafne Keen in Logan (2017). Now in April, we have the amazing talent that is McKenna Grace as Mary.  Nominate her already for some awards because I was stunned. She has the poise and range of a much older actress.  I remember when I used to loathe child actors, now I’m excited to see which new one is going to blow me away. A rare treat indeed.

Grace may have impressed, but she was not alone. Chris Evans showed he had some range. It is good to see him branch out of being Captain America and be human (not superhuman, but a super human). He still had the muscle he is now known for and they don’t shy away from making jokes and comments about that, but Evans had layers. He portrayed a complex human being with a brilliant mind in his own way. He is often the emotional guardian that keeps this film from going off the deep end.

The supporting cast features Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer. Both of them played their roles wonderfully and provided more substance which I appreciated. I would love to see Slate in a more serious roles as she has proven she can be comical and serious. Spencer is good in almost anything she gets into and this is no exception. (Again, wanted a little more of her in this story.)

There is definitely an antagonist, but they are not so much evil as rather having a different set of principles and philosophy. (Not evil, but certainly cold.) Evelyn (Mary’s grandmother) was played by Lindsay Duncan.  You could understand her perspective to a point, but still not completely agree with it. (Or maybe you agree fully with her. Up to you to decide.) You could sense a lifetime of stories beneath this character. There are times in this movie where her eyes tell you everything you need to know. That is something I always find brilliant.

This was a drama (courtroom drama at times), but it also had a fair amount of comedy. It was among the funnier films I’ve seen this year (and last two years) to date.  To give that serious tone, but not remove effective comedy. I find that impressive.

This movie will take you on an emotional ride. I think you will have a hard time not feeling for the young Mary. Her emotional and intellectual battles on full display in this film.

This is a movie dedicated to intelligent people, it shines a light on their unique perspective and the various pitfalls it contains. Something that I appreciate.  From lots of legal talk, to advanced mathematical equations, and several profound philosophical discussions. This movie was beautiful.  In a movie landscape which focuses on what is shallow and flashy, this film is something down to earth and intimate.

Conclusion

Gifted may not win awards come Oscar season, but it certainly was among the best dramas I have seen in some time. A good film will make a person feel a range of emotions and this one covered almost all of them. Better still, it made me laugh harder than most recent comedies. The fight between a real life of substance and the gifted intelligence that a few people have.  It asked serious questions that I think our society needs to ask without getting too dark (nor hiding the darkness).  This may wind up my favorite film of the first quarter of this year.

The Ladder

The Martian (2015)

Rain Man (1988)

Gifted (2017)

Hidden Figures (2016)

A Beautiful Mind (2000)

Martian Child (2007)

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