The movie “Gifted,” coming to theaters nationwide this Friday has a lot going for it. For one thing, it delves into the issue of having a gifted child and asks important questions: Do you keep these children in a regular school, surrounded by a variety of types of children and let them be ordinary kids? Or do you put them in a setting where their skills are nurtured so that they can prepare for an extraordinary life and career? The movie also features a great cast, has a lot of humor and offers several tear-jerking moments.
Chris Evans plays Frank, a 30-something who fixes boats for a living, raising his young niece, Mary, played skillfully by Mckenna Grace. Her mother, a mathematician, took her own life when Mary was an infant. Mary is a prodigy of her mother’s mind at age seven and starts displaying signs of being a genius, particularly at school to her first grade teacher, played one of my faves, Jenny Slate. The school takes notice of her talents, and pressures Frank to send her to private school, but he rejects the advice and opportunity. He wants her to have a regular kid’s existence, and he believes that his what her mother would have wanted. Octavia Spencer, who is always terrific, plays their landlord who showers the little girl with love. The movie revolves around a tough custody battle when Frank’s mother, played by Lindsay Duncan, decides to step in.
The story is a simple yet powerful one, and director Mark Webb navigates the waters. Some of it is predictable, some even not believable, and it can verge on the melodramatic, but the film is compelling enough to keep viewers interested. You’ll spend the movie laughing, crying and rooting for Frank and Mary. The best part is Grace, who I assume is a Hollywood newbie, given her age. Her expressions of emotion, from happy to sad to frustrated or anger, always make the mark. She also has great rapport with Evans, Slate and Spencer.
Coming off the heels of “Hidden Figures,” a film that inspired generations of girls and women everywhere, “Gifted” has a real opportunity to inspire girls who want to break barriers and create real change in the world. That is my biggest hope for this film. My own daughter, upon watching it, came away inspired, which is always my main hope when we watch a movie together. That is the gift that I got from “Gifted”.
Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Fox Searchlight Pictures to screen “Gifted” however all opinions expressed are my own.