Saturday, March 4, 2017

Movie Review: GIFTED

Gifted is the latest film from (500) Days of Summer and Amazing Spider-Man director Marc Webb. The film tells the story of young Mary, a 7-year old with immense intelligence, who is being raised by her uncle after her mother’s death. After starting first grade at a local school, the administration asks the uncle to transfer her to a school for gifted children which he declines to do and then becomes embroiled in a custody battle with Mary’s grandmother who believes that she has the child’s best interests in mind. The film stars Chris Evans, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, Mckenna Grace, and Lindsay Duncan.

Overall I was struck by how charming and heartwarming this film was. I think it really succeeded in getting me invested in its story, caring about the characters, and feeling something about the underlying situation. I did feel that this film was very cheaply made with some horrendously bad camera work and a script with several plot conveniences that felt a bit overboard.

What I loved about Gifted was the emotions the film made me feel. It is extremely funny at times, extremely heartwarming at times, and even extremely sad at times. The film managed to move me from laughter to tears. It took a few moments to sell me but the sheer charm that exuded from the films lead characters made me connect with it on such a level that I was in the palm of its hand as it led be down an emotional journey.

Chris Evans, Jenny Slate, Mckenna Grace, and Octavia Spencer all absolutely shine in this film in their own individual ways. None of them play the same character and they all have unique motivations. Yet, the play together as a unit so well that they get you to invest extremely effectively. I think that the certain energy brought by the various performers really paid off to the film’s distinct benefit. I also thought that Lindsay Duncan brought a totally different energy to her role which also worked perfectly and made the movie a really interesting struggle and drama.

I also appreciated that the film gave me heart, cheer, and laughter without being reductive. It was so refreshing that this movie set up a situation that, on its surface, is very black and white, but that is genuinely layered and grey when you scratch beneath it. So many questions were raised in my mind by this film and I found myself, at a point, struggling with what the “right” thing to do was in reality (even though the narrative answer remained clear). By playing on different parts of my mind, Gifted managed to dig its heels in like most films in its genre fail to do.

Though I genuinely think Gifted did so many things well, I also thought it had distinct weaknesses. For starters (and most frustratingly) the camera work was poor. The focus felt really weird throughout the film and I was extremely underwhelmed by how the Floridian and Boston environments were captured in the movie. There are also a couple scenes (one in particular) where the camera is bouncing around during a very simple dialogue scene as if some child was running around with their parent’s home video camera. Professionals shot this thing and I just cannot bring myself to forgive them for this incredibly distracting moment, or for the frankly incomprehensible issues with the cinematography as a whole. Thankfully the film leans on that element so little it caused minimal damage to the final product, but it was still frustrating in the moments where it did raise its ugly head.

On top of those issues, I also thought there were moments of cliché in the film and there were several plot devices that felt over convenient. All films have these but there were just a couple that were particularly pronounced in what was generally a quite refreshing film that they stood out. One at the end really drove the narrative in a way that shocked me a bit and though effective, left me feeling underwhelmed several hours later.

Overall, I think Gifted is a wonderfully heartwarming and charming film that absolutely impacted me emotionally. It introduced relatable and interesting characters and really made you care which is what is most critical for a human drama like this one. Definitely a film that people should go and see!

Ryan’s Score: 8/10

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