Quantcast
Home » News
Home » News

A child is caught in adult issues in tender drama 'Gifted'

Published April 13, 2017 9:45 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The drama "Gifted" takes a difficult question — what's in the best interests of a child when that child is talented beyond her years? — and presents all sides with tenderness and humanity.

Frank Adler (played by "Captain America" star Chris Evans) works freelance repairing boats around St. Petersburg, Fla. He lives in a ramshackle bungalow, caring for his 7-year-old niece, Mary (McKenna Grace), and a one-eyed cat, Fred, with some help from his landlady, Roberta (Octavia Spencer).

The movie starts on Mary's first day of school, which she resists because Frank has been homeschooling her up to this point. Frank tells Mary that he's taught her all he can and that she also needs to learn the social skills of being with kids her own age.



In class, Mary reveals to the teacher, Bonnie Stevenson (Jenny Slate), that her math skills are far beyond the average second-grader's — and the school's principal (Elizabeth Marvel) insists she can get Mary a scholarship to a prestigious school for gifted children. Frank resists this suggestion, because he believes such a school would rob Mary of the joys of childhood.

His reasoning is grounded in the story of Mary's mother, Diane — a math genius who was pushed to academic greatness by their mathematician mother, Evelyn ("Birdman's" Lindsay Duncan). Diane committed suicide at 27 and left her then-baby daughter in Frank's care.

Evelyn, living in Boston, gets wind of Mary's math skills and believes she can become the third generation of great mathematicians. Thus begins a courtroom battle for custody.

Director Marc Webb ("(500) Days of Summer," the Andrew Garfield "Spider-Man" movies) takes Tom Flynn's screenplay (which was on The Black List, a Hollywood compilation of noteworthy unproduced scripts, in 2014) and polishes it into a small gem. With some side trips (such as a romance between Frank and Bonnie), the movie coalesces around its makeshift family — Frank and Mary as a loving parent and child, with Spencer's Roberta acting more the grandmother than her blood relation, Evelyn — and spins out a touching drama about the dangers of conflicting expectations of a child's future.

The movie is blessed with a solid cast, particularly Evans in the lead as a single man who has sacrificed much to do right by his niece. Grace is a scene-stealer, smart and savvy, and possibly the most natural performer her age (she's 10) since Tatum O'Neal.

"Gifted" occasionally takes some predictable turns, notably in the final half-hour. Like a mathematical proof, the solution seems obvious in retrospect — but the way one gets there is what's fascinating.

movies@sltrib.com

Twitter: @moviecricket —

HHHhj

'Gifted'

A man fights for custody of his niece, who proves to be a mathematical genius, in this tender drama.

Where • Area theaters.

When • Opens Wednesday, April 12.

Rating • PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive material.

Running time • 101 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

USER COMMENTS
Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus