Gifted‘s exceptional cast and director do their best with an inferior script.
In Gifted, Frank (Chris Evans) raises his niece Mary (McKenna Grace), who happens to be a child math prodigy. When Frank wants to give Mary a normal life at a normal school, his mother (Lindsay Duncan) decides to fight for Mary’s custody. Frank’s neighbor (Octavia Spencer) and Mary’s teacher (Jenny Slate) support the two throughout the trial. Gifted is directed by Marc Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer and The Amazing Spider-Man.
The entire cast gives performances much greater than the script warrants. The script plays like a value-filled television episode stretched out to fill a feature format. Despite the script’s melodramatic tendencies, the actors deliver performance with complete sincerity. This entirely manages to salvage the movie.
Due to the many courtroom scenes in Gifted, there are many dramatic proclamations. A handful within a court scene could be powerful, but these are spread throughout the movie, no matter the location of the scene. The dialogue in general is very cheesy. It is not overtly terrible, but it is familiar. Again, this mostly comes back to the actors but the script is not a total train wreck. It does manage to land some clever lines, adding a touch of much needed humor.
The script for Gifted repurposes conventions from successful sappy movies, making sure to hit every emotional beat. This feels forced through, making the overall premise feel ultimately contrived. Plot inconsistencies are glossed over to mitigate distractions from the emotional core. Gifted feels noticeably manipulative as it always favors dramatic impact over actual depth.
Only in premise, Gifted could be compared to Manchester by the Sea. They both revolve around not-completely-mature men who become the guardians for their sibling’s child, after the sibling’s death. Gifted throws in idea that the child is a math prodigy, while Manchester by the Sea delves into the protagonist’s tormented past.
In Manchester by the Sea the characters always take control of the movie. The movie delves into their relationships and existence as people. This mostly helps the dialogue feel real. While the movie can be deeply sad, at times it is hilarious because that is how life works. There is still some degree of a story, but that is used to propel an investigation of character.
The math prodigy idea is a great starting point for Gifted, but the custody battle is too clichéd. The ultimately convoluted story of who gets to raise Mary becomes the focus. So much emphasis is placed on this storyline that there is little time assigned to character development. Again, the performances are able to carry the characters, but there should have been more.
Gifted is mindless family melodrama, but it is entertaining. McKenna Grace’s energy is incredibly contagious and her chemistry with Chris Evans is adorable. Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate feel wasted in their roles but their presence is greatly appreciated. Gifted is definitely not original, but its familiarity is comforting. Although Gifted is overemotional and at times tedious, the heartwarming nature can win over the audience.