When I reviewed Snowpiercer in my post last week, I mentioned my new love of Chris Evans. It hasn’t always been this way, of course. For years, I didn’t really rate Evans as an actor. Having now seen the first Fantastic Four film about 3 times recently, I realise that it wasn’t necessarily his fault. Yes, he agreed to do some shit films but he probably had to take whatever he could get. Fantastic Four isn’t a bad film because of Chris Evans; it’s a terrible film because it’s so badly written. The character of Johnny Storm wasn’t an awful and annoying version of the comic book character but that isn’t Evans’ fault. I’m not trying to suggest that he’s the next Daniel Day Lewis or some shit but he’s proved he can be really good. Look at Snowpiercer for an example of how good he can be. He just needs to start taking more serious roles and not people who run around in Lycra for a living. Which I’m guessing was the appeal of Gifted. It’s probably as far away from Captain America as he can get.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of Gifted. On paper, it sounded like the kind of bullshit that Nicholas Sparks would write. And, to be fair, it is. But… I found that I couldn’t help but like this film. There is something about the performances from the main cast that make it so compelling. Chris Evans is lovely as Frank Adler, the man who ends up raising his child-prodigy niece, Mary. It helps that his co-star Mckenna Grace is superb as the brilliant 7 year old that he is trying to give a normal life. The chemistry between the pair is beautiful and I swear my biological clock started getting louder every time Chris Evans performed another fatherly task.
The problems arise from the narrative itself which is as obvious as they come. Frank takes guardianship of Mary following the suicide of her mother. Frank’s sister, Diane, was a mathematical genius who dedicated her life to solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute. She had been pushed by her over-bearing mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) for most of her life so Frank decides to ensure that Mary will have a more social upbringing. He moves the child to Florida away from his mother. He wants her to lead a normal school life and refuses to send her to an institute for gifted children. It is at that point that Evenly comes back into their lives and demands custody of Mary.
This isn’t the kind of film that will surprise you in any way. You know where the film is going from the outset and every cliche in the book is utilised. It is sheer melodrama that just keeps upping the emotional and dramatic ante. What started as a lovable tale of a man and his genius niece quickly descends into a typical courtroom drama where barbs are slung every possible way and things don’t go well for anyone. It also limits the time that we get to see Frank and Mary together and, after all, it is there chemistry that really drives this film. Watching Frank go head-to-head with his icy mother just isn’t the same. Evelyn is never given the chance to really become anything more than the villain. She has one or two moments of human behaviour but never really gets beyond Disney villain status.
Still, as I already mentioned, I liked this film more than I expected. I cried when it wanted me to cry and I was happy with the outcome. It’s a heartwarming tale of familial love and it has a one-eye cat as an added bonus. It’s difficult not to get carried away. There is an awful lot of greatness coming from the connection between Chris Evans his young co-star and the scenes where the two interact alone are just adorable. Cheesy, obviously, but delightful non-the-less. This is the kind of film that falls into every trap that this narrative could have. It never really pushes itself to be anything other than it’s basic self. It could, and should, have been so much more. In (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb gave us a great and realistic insight into adult relationships. Here, he just gives us mindless drivel that tugs on the heartstrings but offers very little to excite. If it weren’t for the main cast putting so much in, Gifted would have been a forgettable mess. In fact, with a totally different cast, this wouldn’t even have been on anyone’s radar.