‘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

‘American Idol’ notes: Kelly Clarkson, Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez
‘American Idol’ notes: Kelly Clarkson, Phillip Phillips, Jessica Sanchez

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Kelly Clarkson performs on stage at the Citi Concert Series on TODAY at Rockefeller Plaza on September 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Citi) Posted Friday, October 20, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog Kelly Clarkson gave an extensive interview...
Want to raise an empowered girl?
Want to raise an empowered girl?

Laurie Menser was a 7- or 8-year-old in Rockville, Maryland, when she wandered over to a neighbor’s house one day, slipped a glass eye in her mouth and got the attention of the grown-ups in the room. Then she smacked the back of her head and stuck out her tongue - waiting for laughs. “They were appalled,” she remembers. “They...
Taylor Swift is ‘Gorgeous’ as new song is released online
Taylor Swift is ‘Gorgeous’ as new song is released online

Taylor Swift is lighting up the web again with the third song from her upcoming “Reputation” album. >> Read more trending news Swift dropped the song “Gorgeous” Friday morning, Billboard reported. She teased the release Thursday on Instagram. A lyric video was released at midnight on YouTube of “Gorgeous” and...
Nickelodeon fires ‘The Loud House’ creator over sexual harassment allegations
Nickelodeon fires ‘The Loud House’ creator over sexual harassment allegations

Nickelodeon fired the creator of its animated show “The Loud House” after he was accused of sexual harassment, CNN reported. Chris Savino was suspended earlier this week after several women came forward with allegations against the animator, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Chris Savino is no longer working with Nickelodeon...
Playboy features first transgender Playmate
Playboy features first transgender Playmate

Ines Rau became the first transgender Playmate, as the French model is in a pictorial and centerfold for the magazine’s November/December issue, the magazine announced. Rau previously appeared in the magazine’s May 2014 A-Z issue. “It’s how I celebrated my coming out, actually,” Rau told the magazine. &ldquo...
More Stories