February 12 is just another day in Sam's charmed life, until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over and over, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she's losing.
The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.
Two strangers stuck in Manhattan for the night grow into each other's most trusted confidants when an evening of unexpected adventure forces them to confront their fears and take control of their lives.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy - his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. Frank's plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old's mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank's formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. Octavia Spencer plays Roberta, Frank and Mary's landlady and best friend. Jenny Slate is Mary's teacher, Bonnie, a young woman whose concern for her student develops into a connection with her uncle as well. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
"Gifted" is a wonderful family story, wonderfully executed.
Octavia Spencer has carved out quite a niche for herself in feel-good, family-friendly dramas. At first, she often played caregivers (mostly nurses) during her feature film career, which began in 1996 when she played a nurse in "A Time to Kill". But then she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2011's "The Help" (in which she played a maid). Since her Oscar win, the variety in her movie roles has expanded, but she seems to have gravitated towards a certain kind of cinematic story. She took on roles like the peace-loving Johanna in the "Divergent" films, a loving grandmother involved in a child custody battle in "Black or White" (2015) and a brilliant and protective NASA supervisor in "Hidden Figures" (2016). Then, in 2017, she played God himself (well, HERself) in "The Shack" and a loving grandmotherly figure on the fringes of a child custody battle in the terrific family-friendly drama "Gifted" (PG-13, 1:41).
The character to whom the title "Gifted" refers is a precocious 7-year-old girl named Mary, played by Mckenna Grace (previously mainly known for her TV roles in "The Young and the Restless", "Once Upon a Time" and "Designated Survivor"). Mary never knew her father (who disappeared from the picture when Mary's mother learned that she was pregnant) and her mother died when Mary was six months old. Mary is being raised by her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) in his modest Florida home, which he pays for by freelancing as a boat repairman. Frank's landlady is an older woman named Roberta (Spencer) who loves Mary like she's her own granddaughter. Good thing. Mary's real grandmother (Frank's mom) is an arrogant and controlling woman who lives in Massachusetts. Which is why Frank lives in Florida.
After home-schooling Mary for a while, Frank decides that it's time for Mary to go to school, so he enrolls her in first grade. Frank thinks it's critically important that Mary socialize and make friends with kids her own age. Mary doesn't think she should go to school. Roberta agrees and isn't shy about expressing her concerns to Frank. Roberta knows that Mary is special and is concerned about protecting her from a world which can't understand her. Mary doesn't want to go to school because she knows that she can't relate to kids who aren't on her intellectual level. Also because elementary school is so well, elementary. Mary's concerns about school play out very quickly when she hits a boy in the face with a book for bullying a younger child and when she gets disgusted with her strict, but caring teacher, Bonnie Stevenson (Jenny Slate) for asking the kids what 3+3 equals, when Mary can do calculus! Ms. Stevenson clearly recognizes Mary's genius in mathematics and the school's principal (Elizabeth Marvel) tells Frank that the school is unable to academically challenge a child like Mary and offers to help get Mary into a very prestigious private school nearby. Frank refuses, insisting that what Mary needs more at this point is to learn to socialize with her peers (chronological peers, if not intellectual ones) and to just "be a kid". It's at this point that grandma Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) shows up on Frank's doorstep. A mathematical genius herself (but surpassed by her late daughter), she tries to convince Frank that his method of raising Mary will rob her of her potential and deprive the world of major contributions that she seems destined to make. When Frank refuses to budge, Evelyn drags him into court for a bitter and very personal custody battle. Roberta and Evelyn become more involved in the lives of Mary and Frank, but it's unlikely they can do much to help Frank sort through his limited options.
"Gifted" is a wonderful movie, wonderfully executed. Screenwriter Tom Flynn and director Marc Webb give us a sweet and meaningful story of love, family and finding balance in life. It also makes for outstanding drama, with well-constructed twists and multi-layered plot lines. Grace is adorable and exceptionally talented, as shown not just by this role, but by the impressive list of screen credits she accumulated by the age of 10! Evans may not be carrying Captain America's shield in this movie, but he's still pretty heroic as the loving but conflicted father figure who desperately wants to do right by his niece. Slate reminds us that she's an excellent actress with more range than most of her fellow SNL alumni. She also has great chemistry with Evans, with whom she had a year-long relationship after making this movie. Duncan plays her pseudo-villain role with depth and Spencer is both fun and heart-warming to watch. The occasional adult language and allusions to sex take a little away from this film's family-friendliness, but "Gifted" really is a great gift to Movie Fans. "A"
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