A while back, I had a special themed week where I reviewed nothing but films about geniuses. Too bad I hadn’t seen this film back then because it would fit right in. Today, we take a look at (possibly) one of 2017’s best drama-exclusive films, Gifted. Now, if you’re a fan of how much we should hate the legal system and the negative things it does to families with young children during custody battles, then this movie is for you! No, really though, you should watch it because it does have a nice message in there that never tries to boast a know-it-all personality. This is the world, and we can’t only see things our way. Let’s talk about the plot.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy – his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. Frank’s plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old’s mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank’s formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary’s landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary’s teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Not often do we really see films about child prodigies where the argument is against challenging their intellect and guided more towards the idea of letting them be a kid and enjoy life before it gets hard. At the same time, it lists off the positives and negatives of both sides, just as any court drama should. Truthfully, that would be an extremely difficult position for anyone. As an audience member, you’re torn on who to root for, because while you like Chris Evan’s character and understand where he’s coming from, you also don’t want to see a child’s gift be wasted if that’s what they like doing, either. Instead of trying to route for the grandmother or Chris Evan’s character, root for the little girl. In general, this is a film all about what’s right for the child – and because this film isn’t super predictable, it does toss you back and forth as to what’s truly “right” for Mary. On a completely separate note, it’s really nice seeing Chris Evans in a non-action film for once.
Let’s break down Gifted and interpret the stars.
PEOPLE SCORE – 10/10
Acting – 2|Characters – 2|Casting – 2|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 2
This is a very deep, character-centered drama, so this category is absolutely mandatory in order to have a good score. Thankfully, everything in this category scored full points. Everyone did a good job showing their acting range, as this is an emotionally-charged film. While I don’t think the characters are heavily memorable, you still easily remember the film for the characters, which is equally important. Everyone had their own distinct role to play in adding to the plot, which definitely helps when a court hearing is a part of the plot. Finally, the chemistry for nearly everybody was perfect. Now, between the teacher and Frank? Maybe not so much, but everybody else had clear chemistry.
WRITING SCORE – 9/10
Dialogue – 2|Balance – 2|Story – 2|Originality – 2|Interesting – 1
Next up, we have the writing category, which nearly got a perfect score, as well. This was a very dialogue-heavy film that has important speeches both in and out of the courtroom. It was also a pretty decently balanced story that never sways from the target path. The story itself has some deeply important messages about the importance of youth vs. the importance of the mind as well as a few select scenes mentioning suicide. I do consider this pretty original, even though we’ve obviously seen custody battles in films before. As for if it is interesting, I only gave this half points because before I saw the film, it didn’t really interest me. Once I started it, it did a fine job there, but I worry about how interested people will be in watching the film based solely on advertisement and promotion.
BTS SCORE – 7/10
Visuals – 1|Directing – 2|Editing – 1|Advertisement – 2|Music – 1
Moving right along, we are now onto the stuff going on behind-the-scenes, which is pretty decent, but not as perfect as the last two categories. Why? Well, for the most part, I don’t think it was a super visually impressive film. That being said, the camera work was definitely planned out and executed in a really nice way, so the director should be proud. The editing, on the other hand, didn’t seem too terribly complicated as nothing really stood out there. I will say the film was as-advertised, but the music wasn’t enough to make me want to hear it again…though there were some interesting choices in the film that I wasn’t against.
NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 10/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 2|Falling Action – 2
The narrative structure for Gifted was done rather well, as it got a perfect score here. The introduction got us acquainted with the setting and most of the main characters. The inciting incident is mostly when the school discovered the little girl’s gift, the crossing of the threshold occurs when the grandmother comes back into the girl’s life wreaking havoc, the obstacles come down to the dramatic back-and-forth events in the courtroom that sometimes turns your stomach, the climax is a different, but decent culmination of everything put together, and everyone has their own return to their new norms, making this a very good narrative structure. Perfect points!
ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 6/10
Rewatchability – 1|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 1|Impulse/Talk – 0|Sucks you in – 2
Okay, so how entertaining was this film? Well, I think you can probably consider this, at parts, a tear-jerker – so if that’s what you call entertaining then I have the film for you. Personally, I do consider this a highly entertaining film in the sense that you can have a good time watching it, consider it a film you may rewatch someday, and then you move on. It sucks you in just fine, you have a good time watching it, for sure. But would you buy it? Good question. While I wouldn’t mind owning it, I don’t think I’d really buy it, and I don’t really have any strong impulses to actually talk to anyone about the film. So yes, it’s entertaining, but not to the “mindblowing” degree.
TOTAL SPECIAL – 50/50
Drama – 10|Chris Evans – 10|Child Actor – 10|Legal System – 10|Halfway Decent – 10
It was a little tougher picking out five special questions for this film because it is one film that has only one genre, technically speaking. Drama. Well, how was the drama? As I mentioned above, it has a distinct possibility of making some audiences weep…I would say that is successfully pretty dramatic. Chris Evans is also in a ton of films, will anyone pick this one out of a lineup? Good question, but I believe they will. He’s done a lot of action and some comedy, but I haven’t seen him do a ton of drama, and this is a good example to pick out. As far as child actors go, how did Mckenna Grace do? You know, I wasn’t so sure when the film began, but as it moved forward, I actually think that she did a tremendous job overall, showing more emotion than I thought possible from her “savant” character. How was the legal system part of the film? Very good. The legal system is hard and not always predictable – and a lot of films portray the law as something it is not, and this is one of the few examples that does a good job portraying realism. Finally, was it halfway decent? Of course it was!