The Wife wanted to see a movie that the three of us could all watch, and Gifted seemed to fit the bill. From the IMDB: “Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.”
This is a subgenre where its success is dependent on certain factors. In this case, one is the mutual love that Frank (Chris Evans, Marvel’s Captain America) and Mary (Mckenna Grace, from the TV show Designated Survivor) have for each other, without the kid being so obnoxious that you can’t stand to see him or her on the screen. On that level, the film succeeds.
Of course, one Frank stops homeschooling Mary so she can have friends her own age – all she has besides Frank is his landlady Roberta (Octavia Spencer) – it becomes obvious to her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) that Mary has amazing skills.
Reading the Rotten Tomatoes reviews (64% positive), some critics think that Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) is “too vicious to be persuasive, and [writer Tom] Flynn undercuts her morally by stressing her lust for recognition.” That’s not my reading of the woman, as villain. She seems more wounded, estranged from her son, as she had been from her late daughter, and even from her current husband.
Fred, the one-eyed cat also features prominently in the storyline. Yes, it’s all melodramatic, with a courtroom scene, and a Big Reveal, where Frank has to make a tradeoff to resolve the issue.
Gifted is a relatively simple, straightforward film, somewhat formulaic and almost certainly manipulative. But I laughed aloud more than once – to the irritation of the Daughter – and got sucked into the lives of the principals. It’s not a great film, but enjoyable enough on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.