Frank (Chris Evans) is a boat repairman in Florida. He is raising his niece, Mary (McKenna Grace) after her mother, Frank’s sister, left her in his care several years ago. Mary, like her mother, is a mathematical genius, but Frank is trying to give her as normal a life as possible, which is what he believed his sister, Diane, wanted. So, Frank sends Mary to a regular public school, where her teacher, Bonnie (Jenny Slate), quickly discovers how gifted Mary is. Bonnie alerts her principal (Elizabeth Marvel), whose inquiries into Mary’s past draw the attention of the girl’s grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Evelyn wants to take custody of Mary and raise her as she raised Diane – all math, all the time, to the exclusion of anything else. Frank isn’t cool with that and a legal battle ensues.
Gifted is a fine movie that is very sweet and features nice performances from a great cast. McKenna Grace is a delight as Mary and Chris Evans is his usual charming self. I enjoyed Jenny Slate’s performance, but she did appear to be a bit out of her element, as comedy is usually her thing. Octavia Spencer is also great as usual as Frank’s neighbor and sometimes babysitter, Roberta. Lindsey Duncan is also an effective villain, but sometimes her portrayal comes across a bit cartoonish.
The problem with this film is that some of the plot elements are a little too easy. You’ll be drawn in by the emotion of the situation and the likable chemistry between Grace and Evans, but something will be nagging at the back of your mind. We learn that Frank is a former professor, but now he fixes boats for a living. Now, he’s probably doing that to stay under his mother’s radar, but that doesn’t explain his choices for how he’s raising Mary. If he were just a normal guy and not an academic, his choices would make more sense, but for some reason, Frank can’t be just a blue collar guy forced into an extraordinary situation. So, when you’re thinking about the movie afterwards, some of the pieces won’t fit right and these annoying plot strands bring down what is a perfectly fine family drama.
Overall, the performances in Gifted are very good, but Tom Flynn‘s script has some nagging issues that bring the film down as a whole. Check it out when it premieres on cable or hits Netflix, but you can probably skip it in the theater.