Gifted (2017)

This is a great example of a middle-of-the-road mainstream drama that succeeds overall thanks to its terrific cast, in spite of a rather tedious plot and a number of disingenuous, manipulative moments designed to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings. The screenplay often flirts with Lifetime-level shallowness as it haphazardly shoehorns long-winded courtroom scenes in its attempts to heighten the movie’s core narrative (which revolves around a custody battle between mother and son for the guardianship of a mathematically gifted 7-year-old). It’s disappointing that the movie resorts to cheap tricks to force some treacly drama when there’s such audience good will, thanks to the onscreen participation of its first-rate cast. Chris Evans doesn’t have much to do other than stoicism but he’s very good at it, while McKenna Grace excels as the aforementioned gifted child, and they’re well-supported by a terrific array of performers, in particular Jenny Slate as Grace’s teacher, who has a natural screen charisma that’s both distinguished and familiar (although it’s hard not to notice that Octavia Spencer is underused to the point of distraction). It’s not challenging cinema by any means, but even with its narrative and structural flaws, it’s a perfectly pleasant movie for a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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