You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

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


Welcome to

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

‘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.



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

Locals on reality shows update: ‘Food Network Star,’ ‘Ink Master’
Locals on reality shows update: ‘Food Network Star,’ ‘Ink Master’

This was posted Friday, June 23, 2017 by Rodney Ho/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog Checking in on the two metro Atlantans on season 13 of “Food Network Star” and so far, so good after three episodes.
Walking, talking, shopping priorities in new suburban communities
Walking, talking, shopping priorities in new suburban communities

Some of Atlanta’s newest suburban neighborhoods are poised to become walkable urban settings that appeal to millennials, baby boomers and other buyers. “The new urbanist movement, which is about 30 years old, is a movement to restore the best of our traditional neighborhoods where we used to live, work and play; where everything was within...
BET Awards 2017: What time, what channel, who is nominated, performing
BET Awards 2017: What time, what channel, who is nominated, performing

Some of the biggest artists in rap, hip hop, pop, R&B, movies and TV will be at the BET Awards on Sunday. Remy Ma, DJ Khaled, New Edition and more  are scheduled to be at the show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.  Here’s what you need to know before the show: What time: 8 p.m. ET What channel: BET, with live streams on
The one thing Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood demand on tour

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will christen Mercedes-Benz Stadium, new home of the Atlanta Falcons, as the first entertainers to perform in concert there, at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12. (tickets are on sale June 30 with a pre-sale starting June 27). “It’s very flattering. It’s very humbling. They had their pick of everybody,” Brooks...
7 awesome family-friendly ways to celebrate July 4th in Atlanta area
7 awesome family-friendly ways to celebrate July 4th in Atlanta area

Metro Atlanta offers many fun family-friendly ways to celebrate Independence Day. From parades and fireworks to pool parties, sporting events, and of course, The AJC Peachtree Road Race, the 4th of July is a day filled with special events. Here’s a look at seven fabulous ways families can enjoy the day. On July 4, the Atlanta Braves...
More Stories