By Jack Dignan
There’s something about these type of stories that I’m a sucker for. It’s the type of movie I see myself writing. Films like (500) Days of Summer, The Descendants, Little Miss Sunshine or the underrated, probably forgotten about film The Way, Way Back, amongst others. They speak to me. They move me. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And I love them. Gifted, the long delayed Chris Evans drama, finally opens in Australian theatres this week after an April release date overseas. If you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned films, you’re going to love it just as much, if not more than I did.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) has made a stable life for himself. He’s a freelance boat mechanic living with his niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) and home schooling her to the best of his ability. But Frank can’t keep doing this forever. Mary’s mum, before passing away, wanted Mary to live a normal life, something her family never got to experience due to their genius level intellects, which Mary has too. Frank sends her off to regular school, allowing her to fit in and interact with other kids, but she’s too good for it, and everyone knows it, including her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate). That’s when Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) hears of Mary’s ability.
Evelyn, after many years of absence and not speaking to either of her children, arrives on Frank and Mary’s doorstep. What follows is a custody battle between mother and son over who gets to look after Mary and what’s the best way to fulfill her potential. It’s a premise that sounds simple enough, perhaps one you’ve even seen before, but really, you haven’t. Gifted is new. It’s fresh and it’s exciting, and it’s a moving, emotional journey that hits all the right spots and fills you with warmth. You’ll cry, laugh and smile all the way through, stirring with emotion and quickly falling in love with every single one of these characters.
It’s not hard to guess where this plot will lead, and that is the film’s biggest downfall, but through its sincerity and optimistic openness, it works. Whether you’ve seen the mildly spoiler-filled trailer or not doesn’t matter. You’re still going to be able to guess where Gifted’s plot will ultimately end up. It moves in a very predictable manner, resulting in an ending that won’t surprise anyone. One element of the plot did manage to sneak up on me, pulling the rug out from underneath my feet and packing an emotional punch you won’t see coming, but it’s about the only surprise on offer.
Still, it’s not necessarily a film about the unpredictability of life, but more so the necessity of it and the earnestness in all of us. Gorgeous, moving moments sneak up on you and deliver a swift laugh or tear. There’s a sequence involving cats at a pound that perfectly encapsulates the beauty and magic of a movie like this. It’s full of hope and happiness, as well as the bond between family members. Gifted is about the connections we make and the importance of loved ones, no matter who they are, what their age is and what they want from you. Every line of dialogue is impactful and relevant to the themes at hand, giving off a little bit of wisdom between each of Mary’s witty retorts.
Director Marc Webb, returning to original movies for the first time since directing the Amazing Spider-Man films, is right where he belongs. These are the types of films he should be making. It’s not quite on the same level as (500) Days of Summer, that’s a film that’s hard to top, but it’s a big step up over his more big budgeted endeavors. However, the real heart and soul of this movie is the bond between Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace. Their performances are moving and heartfelt, working as the glue to an already fantastic, if not slightly predictable story. Their journey is a heart wrenching watch, but one that leaves you feeling like a better person just from experiencing it.
Gifted is far from a perfect film. The screenplay is full of exposition and convenient Google searches, and most of it moves in a fairly predictable manner, but it’s the heart and humour behind the story, as well as the talent of all involved, that pulls it through to the finish line. Chris Evans is the only attractive man on this planet who doesn’t crumple my masculinity, but instead makes me feel more handsome just by looking at him. Go Chris!
3 1/2 Stars
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