You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

‘Gifted’ is a well-acted but contrived weepie


Everyone involved with “Gifted” no doubt intended a sweet, affecting, sincere and, as manipulative heartwarmers go, relatively low-key affair.

But virtually no one involved appears to have remembered what human or human-adjacent behavior should feel like, scene to scene. Easier said than done. But this contrived mashup of “Proof” (earth-shaking algorithms), “Kramer vs. Kramer” (nerve-wracking custody battles) and “Little Man Tate” really isn’t much.

Screenwriter Tom Flynn (“Watch It”) sets his tale in a breezy coastal Florida town. Freelance boat mechanic Frank, played by Chris “Captain America” Evans, home-schools his niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace). The kid’s a prodigy, particularly in mathematics; her mother (Frank’s sister), now deceased, devoted her suffocating life to mathematics, at the fierce urging of Mary’s Boston grandmother (Lindsay Duncan).

Frank decides 6-year-old Mary needs friends her own age, so he enrolls her at the local public school. (Octavia Spencer struggles to activate the bleh role of Mary’s neighbor, occasional caregiver and best pal.) At school, the girl’s teacher (Jenny Slate, doing some of the least conspicuous and most effective acting of her career) realizes Mary’s exceptional gifts. She also realizes Frank’s laconic charms as the local “quiet, damaged hot guy,” as she and a female colleague refer to him.

Slate’s scenes with Evans, her former real-life romantic partner, feel easy-breathing and lived-in. Most of “Gifted” strains to catch its breath. The bulk of it deals with questions of Mary’s destiny. Should she give up life with her uncle, and their one-eyed cat, Fred, for the unknown? A dream adoptive couple appears on the scene; so does Mary’s birth father, whom she has never met. Frank blames his mother, eager to steer her granddaughter’s life, for the death of Mary’s mother. In and out of court, the story depends on matters of contrivance and abrupt revelations (Frank has no health insurance!) and narrative switchbacks owing more to convenience than character.

The director Marc Webb scored a slick popular success with “(500) Days of Summer” before moving on to a couple of “Spider-Man” pictures. Perhaps he, like Evans, was so grateful to get rid of the superhero stuff for a while that he neglected to take an honest look at the script at hand. Also, it’s a small problem but a telling one: There’s one conversational shot of Evans and Glenn Plummer (who plays Frank’s lawyer) dominated by a sudden and ridiculous hand-held camera. You can’t even hear what they’re saying. You’re too worried that “Gifted” is actually having a seizure.

MOVIE REVIEW

“Gifted”

Grade: C

Starring Chris Evans, McKenna Grace and Octavia Spencer. Directed by Marc Webb.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive material. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Bottom line: A bit of a contrived mashup of touchy-feely movies



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

‘60s utopianism struck deep into heart of American parenting
‘60s utopianism struck deep into heart of American parenting

Q: I’ve read enough of your writings to know that you believe children should be obedient, that they should do what they are told. I want my children to think for themselves and to question authority, not to blindly obey simply because someone is bigger than they are. I don’t want them thinking that “might makes right.” What&rsquo...
A tribute to a life well lived
A tribute to a life well lived

I walked what seemed to be a mile on high heels, while crossing the bridge that links Emory Hospital to its parking garage. It was Sunday morning, and most visitors had not arrived yet. The hallways echoed with the sound of my shoes, and in my heart, a haunting sadness lingered. Only 30 minutes earlier, I was sitting at my Sunday School class, waiting...
Getting up close and personal with reptiles at Repticon
Getting up close and personal with reptiles at Repticon

If it’s creepy, crawly, scaled and makes the hairs on your arms go up, it’s probably at Repticon. Repticon is a leader in hosting reptile and exotic pet shows all across the U.S. Whether you have been breeding snakes your entire life or you’re just looking for a new pet, Repticon has a place for you. The hands-on demonstrations...
Atlanta faith calendar
Atlanta faith calendar

Book signing: During the Page from the Book Festival, actor Stephen Tobolowsky—who has appeared in more than 100 movies and 200 television shows including “Deadwood,” “Glee” and “The Goldbergs”—will discuss and sign copies of his new book “My Adventures with God.”  7:30 p.m. May...
Author Jenny Han in Atlanta to promote new book in ‘Lara Jean’ series
Author Jenny Han in Atlanta to promote new book in ‘Lara Jean’ series

Jenny Han broke ground with the Song family, a close trio of half-Korean sisters who work hard to support each other after the death of their mother. Now the family is back with “Always and Forever, Lara Jean,” which tells the story of the lovable middle sister as her senior year in high school comes to an end and she still holds a big...
More Stories