When you watch blockbuster films, do you ever wish some of the actors star in a much smaller, more emotional and character driven films? I do, and one of those actors is Chris Evans, who is the star of Captain America and Fantastic Four. I admit, I haven't seen Snowpiercer (which is one of his filmography highlights) and his only small scale film I've watched is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which he had a small role.
His latest film, Gifted, promised to have the smaller, emotional and character driven elements. Gifted, directed by Marc Webb, who directed the lovely (500) Days of Summer and the mixed The Amazing Spider-Man franchise. It stars Chris Evans, McKenna Grace (Designated Survivor), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Jenny Slate (Zootopia) and Lindsay Duncan (Sherlock).
In Gifted, Frank Adler (Evans), a self-employed boat mechanic resides in Florida, taken up custody of his niece, Mary Adler (Grace) after his sister's death. Mary Adler, in simple terms, is a math genius who understands very advanced mathematics at the age of a first-grader. Frank wants his Mary to have a proper childhood without the pressure of being a child prodigy and lives next door to Roberta (Spencer). Things change when Frank sent Mary to a normal school taught by Bonnie (Slate) and got his estranged mother, Evelyn's attention, who always wanted a family legacy.
The story of Gifted is not groundbreaking or unique by any means, so it is up to the actors and director to push a little harder to stand out. I think Gifted succeeded in that. This film reminded me on Marc Webb as a good director, he is great in (500) Days of Summer and Gifted is the kind of movie he excels in. He focuses on the small little moments between the characters that makes the audiences invested in their story and their lives, and the quiet times rich of stories. For a film about child custody, which can be depressing at times, it is surprisingly full of entertainment and humour. At times, I bursted out laughing at some of the jokes shared between these characters.
The highlight of Gifted is definitely the performances. Chris Evans showed why he deserves some recognition and more as a serious actor, his chemistry with McKenna Grace is what makes the film tick. Their interaction, relationships and struggles are what made me invested in the film. Jenny Slate had a decent performance too, as Mary's caring teacher. Octavia Spencer is great in this film, made a seemingly unimportant character into a vital one. While Lindsay Duncan's character, Evelyn, is the "antagonist", there are certain scenes that makes you understand her point of view regarding the issue. While these performances are great individually, it is the interaction and talks between these people that made the film so worthwhile.
The only downside I could think of the pacing. There are certain moments in this film, that I wish Marc Webb could just leave them as it is without cutting too much, and long scenes such as the custody battle could be shorter as it is a bit distracting to the overall film.
Gifted, while neither thought-provoking nor original, is still a great film. It had a great cast and character chemistry to overcome the predictability of the premise. It doesn't have much tensions and build up to certain scenes, but the fantastic quiet moments in the film is what made it such a delightful film. I wish to see Chris Evans in more films like this and McKenna Grace's potential develop further. If you want to take some time off from blockbuster films, this is the film for you.