CAPTAIN AMERICA STARS IN A FILM BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Review by Paul Preston
In Marc Webb’s new film, Gifted, we’re supposed to buy into the premise that Captain America’s niece is incredibly advanced and intelligent. Not so hard to do.
Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, has just come off the Amazing Spider-Man movies and I can understand his desire to wash the taste of that noisy mess out of his mouth, so he’s pulled a full 180º and put together an indie drama of an entirely different tone. It’s a familiar family crisis movie helped up by good cast performances all ‘round.
I’m a big fan of Chris Evans. Here, he plays Frank, a simple single guy living in Florida tasked with raising his niece Mary after his sister dies. Mary is an exceptional student, one in a million, really, the daughter of a math genius. Enter Frank’s mother in law, who wants to see Mary follow the path of her mom, which clashes with Frank’s idea of letting Mary live the normal life of a kid. A court battle ensues.
Am I the only one who thinks Evans should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for playing Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War? Following in the footsteps of Gary Oldman’s indelible performance as Commissioner Jim Gordon, Evans makes noble interesting. It’s tough to make the guy who’s virtuous compelling, as the conflicted and edgy characters often steal the headlines, but I thought Evans did that, and built a sharp contrast to his eclectic co-stars (I also think he successfully built a four-film arc for Cap that infused humor and action effortlessly, too). So I welcome any further movies he’s in, including this one. And he’s quite natural here. For a dude built like Captain America, he pulls off average joe with a boat repair business well, and he has a good rapport with McKenna Grace, who plays Mary.
I predicted before the film began that Lindsay Duncan would be shrewish and Octavia Spencer would be knowing, always giving that knowing look. I nailed it. Luckily, Duncan’s great at playing cold and calculated (think of her tête-à-tête
with Michael Keaton in Birdman) and she’s effective here as the grandmother who wants the best(?) for Mary. Spencer is pretty damn good deal for the movie – to get an Oscar winner in such a small part. She’s good, but there’s not much for her to do outside of give people that Evans/Spencer Snowpiercer reunion they’ve wanted.
Family members fighting for custody has been done a thousand times, from Oscar winners like Kramer vs. Kramer to your Lifetime movie-of-the-week. Essentially, not much is added here except for the math genius part (in the wake of Hidden Figures, math geniuses are hot right now). There’s a deus ex machina or sorts that gets thrown down towards the finale but the movie does throw a couple of surprises at Frank (and us) to shake things up a little bit when it seems like all is lost.
The film never gets too cheesy, but it’s tough to say if you should go out of your way for such a story as this. It’s never bad, but it wavers from good to the routine and back. Webb keeps it clicking along so perhaps for the break you need from all the films that look like summer tentpoles making their way to spring this year, this’ll do. Maybe the best thing you can say is that despite how not-so-different this film is from others in its genre, it’s certainly different than most other genres out there right now. Maybe Gifted will be a unique gift after all.
Directed by: Marc Webb
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Run Time: 101 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox