Chris Evans, McKenna Grace shine in "Gifted"


Coming out of Hollywood, Gifted seems refreshingly original, with limited transparency and an engaging story. 

Gifted, is the story of a 7-year-old math prodigy, Mary, living with her protective uncle and the bitter grandmother, who wants the child to solve the problem her equally genius daughter never did. Their battle over what is and is not good for Mary, which nearly tears the family apart.

The film stars Chris Evans, Lindsey Duncan, Octavia Spencer and an adorable McKenna Grace. 

Frank (Evans) wants nothing more than to see Mary live a normal like, but the child is far from normal. Her first grade teacher, Bonnie (Jenny Slate) notices right away that Mary has a unique ability and once the wheels of the system get rolling, Jack finds himself in a bitter battle with his mother Evelyn (Duncan). In question —what is best for Mary? 

Still reeling from the loss of her daughter to suicide and overtly disappointed in her son’s life choices, Evelyn sees Mary as a way to finish her daughter’s problem solving legacy. 

Whether dancing and singing with Octavia Spencer’s Roberta — a close-friend and neighbor who loves this child — or matching wits with adults, protecting peers, or confused and crying, Mary is lively and genuine as a mathematical marvel inside a precocious little girl. Grace is brilliant playing her. 

The bond between Evans and Graces gives us a relationship we root for, one that screams for normalcy in a notably abnormal situation. 

Duncan evokes unexpected empathy, as the prim, proper grandmother, who wants nothing more than to see her dead daughter’s life work completed and Mary playing her part. 

Evans finds a smooth, subtle rhythm here and his chemistry with his young co-star is notable. Were it not for this wonderful cast, Gifted would get lost in its shallow straightforwardness. Still, there is a great deal to be said for sweet and simple. There is freshness in the characters, even if Bonnie, the teacher who falls for Frank, is superfluous for the most part; she is truly likable. The story’s conflict plays out with the clarity of a newly cleaned plate-glass window, but even this is forgivable because there is simple satisfaction in the film’s finale. 

Facing a barrage of spring and summer action-packed “blockbusters,” sentimentally centered viewers could do far worse than Gifted.  There is a crispness to its pacing, a charm in its character and rich gratification in its uncomplicatedness.  I am placing a B- in my grade book. Predictability aside, it’s a pleasing little ride with a delightful child as the helm.