Most directors would envy a debut as successful as Marc Webb's 2009 Golden Globe-nominated film, (500) Days of Summer. Webb then took a bit of a leap by following-up his rom-com with superhero blockbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel. But success is fickle in this industry and, like many do, the filmmaker has gone from being handed a major franchise to taking on the new limited-release drama, Gifted.
Chris Evans trades in his Captain America uniform for a much simpler life as Frank Adler, a boat repairman raising his deceased sister's child, Mary (Mckenna Grace), who's firm understanding of advanced mathematics is a rarity. But as Frank pushes Mary towards a conventional childhood built on playing and making friends in the public school sector, rather than a taxing life of studying rigorous mathematics at a specialized institution, his mother (Lindsay Duncan) resurfaces and takes legal action with a custody battle over guardianship of the seven year-old girl.
As a professor of mathematics myself, Gifted's distinct premise certainly raised my interest. Marc Webb's latest work attempts to master the delicate balance between a hearty drama and frequent humor. Chris Evans' sarcastic delivery feels organic and newcomer McKenna Grace offers an impressive turn as well, however the entire cast ultimately becomes limited by a one-dimensional screenplay. At it's core, Gifted merely scratches the surface of its fundamental moral quandary regarding whether or not a truly exceptional child prodigy should be pushed towards a lifetime commitment of study and research as a duty to humanity, or if they're should also be entitled to a "normal" upbringing. But rather than tackling this issue head-on, Gifted tip-toes around the predicament with an overly sentimental examination of its story. Regrettably, co-stars Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate find their talents wasted as expendable characters who are written into the script as obvious fillers. Yet. while Gifted does manage to boast a few tender moments of cinematic expression, they are far too sporadic to withstand a fatally flawed screenplay from writer Tom Flynn.