Commonly known as Captain America, Chris Evans puts aside the superhero tights for Gifted 2017. But he still has a battle to fight.
Chris Evans will be playing Frank, a boat repairman from Florida, who has been the guardian of his 7-year-old niece, Mary (McKenna Grace) since the suicide of her mother, Diane when she was still a baby. It’s clear that Mary is a phenomenon, if not an outright genius – while her classmate in first-grade are learning to add two plus two, she is calculating square roots in her mind, much to the astonishment of her teacher, Ms. Bonnie (Jenny Slate)
Bonnie and the principle (Elizabeth Marvel) tell Frank that Mary is “gifted” and offer her a spot in a special school that can raise her to the “level of scholarship that she deserved.” But Frank refuses, wanting Mary to grow up like other “normal” kids, in a normal school, not in a place where she’s considered an oddity.
Cue the back Gifted 2017 story: Frank’s sister (Mary’s mother) was also a math genius, a number-crunching, headline- making superstar. Her suicide must have something to do with the unbearable pressure she felt solving an “unsolvable” math, and the pressure from her overbearing iceberg of a mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), a British-born Boston blueblood who now wants to have custody of Mary.
Guess what? Evelyn also has a bit of math in her blood as well. And maybe that’s why she’s now interested in her granddaughter.
The director of 500 Days of Summer and two Spider Man flicks, Marc Webb gets nuanced, naturalistic performances from his cast, especially young McKenna Grace. At such a young age, she is already a TV and movie veteran of nearly 40 roles, including Penny Kirkman on Designated Survivor and young Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time. Missing two of her front teeth and with a bandage on her scuffed-up knee, spouting complex calculus one minute and watching Spongebob Squarepants, she is very believable as a child granted with exceptional super smarts, but still very much a kid.
Evans proves he’s got chops beyond Captain America’s spandex—even though Gifted 2017 full movie can’t resist playing off his buff, hunkish charms. “He’s the quiet, damaged, hot guy,” is how one of Bonnie’s female coworkers dreamily describes Frank. Not surprisingly, Bonnie and Frank find a charming romantic connection, which leads to a Kramer versus Kramer-style morning-after interruption—and possibly the movie’s funniest one-liner.
Frank’s warm-hearted next-door neighbor, Roberta (Octavia Spencer), provides the movie’s real conscience and backbone. She gets to shake it down with Mary in a fun karaoke rendition of “Shame, shame, shame,” and Spencer’s presence in a child-genius math-themed movie makes things sort of half-pint Hidden Figures vibe.
There’s also a magnificent beach scene with a parable-like conversation of cats, sandpipers friends and idiots. Another beautiful sunset moment has a discussion about God, Jesus and the afterlife, and ends with Frank telling Mary “use your head, but don’t be afraid to believe in things, either.”
There’s an one-eyed cat named Fred, a contentious courtroom showdown, a tearful separation, an relatively tearful reunion and the running theme about how smart, exceptional talented kids should be push to excel at the expense of experiencing what’s call “real life”.
At one point, Mary’ grandmother tells her that immortality depends on the kind of mathematical accomplishments that her mother died trying to achieve. “If you succeed, your name will live forever”, she said.
Perhaps it’s true, but what’s good about “living forever” as a math genius when you can’t snuggle with your one-eyed cat, or have fun on the playground with your friends?