Saturday, April 29, 2017


Plot: First grade orphan Mary (Mckenna Grace) is supergood with math. She is being raised by her uncle Frank (Chris Adler) in a low rent cottage in Florida. Her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) says she is gifted, but Frank wants to keep her with kids her age. Grandma Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) flies in from Boston and sues Frank to get custody. She wants to send Mary to tutors and elite schools. After a court hearing, the final scenes lead to a milquetoast ending.   [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Gifted is a well acted movie without much of a story. This is ironic because Gifted originated as a winning script in scriptwriting contest, so something was lost in translation.

The movie's core is the education of a likable first grader. I have hard time getting worked up about education choices made for six year olds and how this affects their lifetime. I am a big proponent of education, but it is not a juicy driver of emotion. I never knew any math geniuses, and I have a hard time believing that any "genius" really is a gift and not just motivation combined with a pushy parent -- like Malcom Gladwell's 10000 hours of practice is what produces genius.

I liked Mckenna Grace; child actors can be dull, but she was fun to watch. Chris Evans was OK, but he was so stereotypically perfect that he seemed dull. Not sure what teacher Bonnie saw in him beyond the biceps, but actress Jenny Slate did a good job with her. Octavia Spencer's character didn't have much to do in the story, but she is likeable.

An interesting aspect is that Grandma Evelyn, departed daughter Diane, and Mary are/were all math jocks. It is like Evelyn is trying to Mary into a copy of the dead daughter Diane. This twisted aspect of Evelyn personality is only hinted at, and I would like to have seen more.

Gifted is OK. It dragged in the middle.  Although Mckenna is a good child actress, the central drama was not dramatic enough.

Cast: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Jenny Slate, 

Directed by:
Marc Webb

Written by:
Tom Flynn. The script for gifted won an award in 2014/5. It is not based on a book. 

The Visuals:
Almost all talking heads. Many chalkboard scene film obliquely so you can't read the writing.

2.0 stars: 

Even More: Director Webb grew up in Madison Wisconsin. He loved math as a kid, and had the quadratic equation written on the side of his bead. link