by Monica Hayes
Captain America takes a back seat to an opinionated, spirited math prodigy with blond curls and missing front teeth in the feel good movie Gifted.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) takes on the responsibility of raising his niece Mary (McKenna Grace) after her mother commits suicide in a small town in coastal Florida. With the help of a neighbor and good friend Roberta (Octavia Spencer) and their one-eyed cat Fred, Frank has managed to raise a very spunky, outspoken, caring, precocious little girl. However, Mary is not your typical seven-year-old, she is a math genius.
After years of homeschooling Mary, Frank sends her to school for the First grade so she can have and grow up with friends, play, be social with peers her own age, you know, just be a typical kid. Well, that doesn’t happen when Mary becomes increasingly bored with the math lessons given by her teacher, Ms. Bonnie Stevenson (Jenny Slate). Bonnie does some digging and eventually the news of just how exceptional Mary gets back to Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), Frank’s mother and Mary’s grandmother. Evelyn, a hardnosed woman who gets what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer, challenges Frank’s ability to “properly” raise Mary, the way she should be raised, takes him to court for custody.
Gifted is an emotional rollercoaster that will make you laugh, get angry, have utter contempt and even shed tears. Even with all their flaws, each character still draws you in to make you truly care what will happen to Mary. The chemistry between Grace, Evans, and Spencer comes off as effortless and genuine. While Evans, Spencer and Duncan’s characters are critical to the story, it is Grace who steals the spotlight.
Gifted is very similar to Black or White, which also stared Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner, who fought for custody of their interracial grandchild. It also has a scene that resembles Hidden Figures, when young Katherine Johnson is called to the front of the class to solve a math problem.
No, Gifted is not a fresh new idea, but it is a different variation of the genre. It is intended to make you feel good again, make you care again, and it achieves that goal.