Sunday, February 18, 2018

Gifted: The Story, the Acting, the Writing, the Encouragement You Should See

Movie Review: Gifted (2017)
Version: HBO On-Demand

Our family watched a triple feature movie Saturday night. Gifted was by far the best of the three.

My daughter, who has a variety of disabilities, was drawn to this story about an intellectually gifted but socially awkward girl named Mary. She lives with her single uncle, Frank, who took over parenting of the six year old after his math-whiz sister stopped by unannounced and while he anxiously left on a date, committed suicide, leaving Mary behind. Frank and his sister had always had a difficult relationship with their smart but not-too-close mother, and it was clear his sister didn't want Mary left with her mother, despite her wealth. Frank decides despite having home taught Mary for some time it's best she attend public school now to help her develop social skills and friendships with others her own age. Neighbor Roberta, who has come to know and love Frank and Mary, knows this can only lead to complications down the road, discourages Frank, but he is insistent, and so a ball begins to roll downhill that Frank cannot stop. It is apparent to Mary's new teacher, Ms Stevenson, and school administrators, that the school cannot provide for Mary's intellectual needs and want to send her to a school for the gifted. Frank is stubborn about keeping her there. And so the grandmother is consulted, who tries to move heaven and earth to interfere on Mary's intellectual behalf, pitting mother against son -- once again.

Gifted is a fine story in and of itself. But what shines here is the acting. I always thought Chris Evans was kind of dorky as Captain America, but he shines here as Frank. Young Mckenna Grace is brilliant as Mary and reminds me a lot of Dakota Fanning in her younger roles. She carries the female lead with great emotional highs and lows like a seasoned actress. Lindsay Duncan is cold and plotting as the grandmother, Evelyn. What can I say about Octavia Spencer as the neighbor Roberta? She is magic in every role I have ever seen her play, and so she is here. There is a scene where Frank must confront Evelyn to reach Mary, and when Evelyn moves forward to resist Frank, Roberta steps between them like the knight in shining armor to stop Evelyn in her tracks, like, "No you don't!" Jenny Slate makes a wonderful Ms Stevenson, the teacher, and a forbidden love interest for Frank. I would watch this film just for the acting.

The writing was quite good, too. It can affect the whole rest of the movie, and in this case, the writing built a strong bulwark around which the whole story easily flowed. That means there were few plot holes or questionable scenes, and that means you can enjoy it without continually being jerked away from the narrative to ask, what the heck was that!

One other thing to consider. This is the story about a girl who is a math prodigy. We are at a turning point in American culture (and perhaps other cultures) where we are beginning to finally realize that girls are just as capable of handling math as boys. That was once not so. Gifted could be that film that encourages the gifted girl in your family to pursue math or science or some other area of interest she may have felt discouraged to study. Encourage her by watching Gifted with her.

To recap, Gifted is the story, the acting, the writing, the encouragement your family should see together.

No comments: