Whether it’s dealing with alternate universes, new galaxies or impossibly illogical action scenes, today’s films offer a glimpse of what it would be like to escape reality. Gifted, however, is one such film that goes against the grain, being a drama which sternly reminds us about reality. While it certainly is a breath of fresh air, a plot revolving around the battle for custody over a child prodigy doesn’t exactly sound exciting, so is Gifted a gift waiting to be unwrapped?
Given that dramas can typically be predictable and full of cliches, it comes as a surprise that Gifted is actually good. This is in part due to the solid chemistry between Chris Evans and McKenna Grace. Now, Chris Evans is not someone you’d normally associate with dramas, yet he delivers a gift of emotions by the bucketload in this film and portrays the role of a deeply affected and concerned uncle incredibly well. Every single line and expression delivered brims with sincerity. Meanwhile, playing a struggling child prodigy stuck in a battle of custody is by no means easy, yet McKenna Grace’s performance as Mary Adler is a standout. She plays the perfect foil to Chris Evans’ Frank Adler, and it is their scenes together which are the most memorable in Gifted.
“Hey, who are you? I forgot you even existed!”
However, Mary’s teacher Bonnie (played by Jenny Slate) appears to be the weak link in the film, almost like the ribbon you would eventually take off when unwrapping a gift. Her role feels largely awkward to the point where the film could actually be better without her character. Her attempts to help Mary in the first act feels forced rather than sincere, and her eventual relationship with Frank just feels wrong in every way imaginable – a point which is later scoffed at by the other characters. She is supposed to be important – after all, she first noticed Mary’s genius and is supposed to offer Frank emotional support as his eventual girlfriend – but ends up feeling like a last minute addition. It’s such a pity, as the rest of the cast, especially Octavia Spencer and Lindsay Duncan, complement the two main leads very well. Even Mary’s cat, Fred, is far more memorable than Bonnie.
“You drove too fast! I couldn’t catch up with you!”
Also, while the story is well-written and easy to digest, there are issues with pacing. The story develops slowly from the beginning, allowing the characters (minus Bonnie) to develop and shine. However, after the second half, the pace feels rushed and fast, to the point that you’re left wondering if you need to be gifted in order to comprehend things.
Having said that, like the very reality which this film reminds us that every person has potential, Gifted also has potential. It is largely enjoyable, and even ends on a positive note, leaving a good aftertaste. However, the best gifts in life need to be given at the right time, and awkward girlfriends aren’t the best at delivering them to gifted children.