David: Hello and welcome to DFP! Today we are talking about the Chris Evans vehicle Gifted. Telling the story of a young girl who is diagnosed as a mathematics prodigy, she becomes involved in the twisted relationship of her grandmother and uncle as they struggle for her guardianship. It arrives in select theaters April 7th 2017, and open everywhere by April 21st 2017. The stars are Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate (yes, Marcel the Shell herself stars in this) and Octavia Spencer (who is in everything now apparently - between her and the Rock, I bet they own Hollywood right now).
Shannon, overall, I have very positive feelings about this movie. There were some things that detracted from the overall viewing experience, but this is a solid movie, if a bit cliche. What were your initial thoughts?
Shannon: I would have to agree with you. It was a good movie overall, funny, dramatic but not too dramatic, and inspiring (I was almost a math major ya know). The fact that it's a true story is just icing on the cake for Hollywood. I thought Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer were great in their roles, but McKenna Grace was definitely the star. Her attitudes throughout the movie, whether happy, sad, angry, I feel were spot on. What did you think about the acting?
David: The acting was terrific. I honestly can’t think of a person in this movie I thought did a poor job. Jenny Slate had that perfect sweet 1st grade teacher role down pat, Octavia Spencer played her normal role - a bit spicy but very loving. Chris Evans is a very good actor in his own right - though most people know him as Captain America (rightly so), the man has turned in some great performances in other films as well (I’m looking at you Snowpiercer). I think he really pulls off that haunted, damaged male look better than most.
But I thought two of the woman leads really, really stepped up in this one. Lindsay Duncan was really, really good in a couple of scenes, in particular the one in court. I’ve not seen her in much besides bit parts, and in the beginning of the movie I was a bit disappointed because it seemed like she was going to fall into the cliche’ role of smart British woman. But her role evolved a bit and the movie was better for it.
To touch on what you mentioned - WOW. McKenna Grace, welcome to stardom. I IMDB’d her, and I couldn’t believe the amount of films she has been in already. I think this one will truly buoy her up into stardom though. It reminds me of the young Dakota Fanning roles. Rarely is a young girl given the chance to own the screen like Grace is here. She takes it and runs with it, frequently out-acting her older co-stars. She’s the funniest, smartest, most emotional person on screen, which is quite a risk for director Marc Webb to take with a child actor. But it is absolutely the right choice.
Speaking of humor, I was really surprised at the amount of humor within this movie. It would take a few viewings to touch on all the jokes that were included in this movie. It’s not quite joke-per-minute pace, but it’s pretty close. What did you think about the humor?
Shannon: I loved all of it! Yes, I agree I was surprised at how funny it was, and most of the jokes came from Mary. The funniest was by the scene where she comes home on Sunday morning, but for sure all the other one liners and child prodigy attitudes really made the movie entertaining. I agree with you about Jenny Slate being the perfect stereotypical (I guess it's not really stereotypical because all the teachers I know act like this in class) 1st grade teacher, and honestly I found that amusing as well. Also, I love Marcel the Shell. Maybe we can share some YouTube links for our viewers?
Even though I liked pretty much everything about this movie, there is one thing I would like to complain about. It's the scenes when Evelyn comes into their lives and her and Frank are having a conversation (argument maybe?) by her car. That camera work! Have they heard of a tripod or something? It was all over the place and I feel like that's not really the scene where the camera should be all over the place right? Did you notice this?
David: I’ll absolutely share links to Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. There is also a few books that you can either have Marcel read, or if you can do the voice, your kids will love you for it. But you’ll probably be doing the voice for weeks (speaking from experience).
I knew this was going to come up, because you could actually here the whispers in the audience as this went on. It wasn’t just that scene, there were several that took a handheld camera approach to the filming. It’s a technique that many directors may use in order to provide an emotional scene with even more impact. But… that’s when it is done really, really well, and fleshes up the close ups with a handheld intensity. Here, it is extremely distracting, and has the opposite effect. Really good films draw you in and you forget that you are watching a creation that hundreds of people made and worked on. To be reminded so forcefully was jarring and uncomfortable.
As long as we are on the negatives, I have one other critique. I understand that the grandmother and uncle have had a tumultous relationship due to her intensity with his sister. But… why do you guys hate each other so? Is it because you both blame the other for the suicide? Or did something else happen? Was it really that Diane got all the attention from mommy? It seems like the have a familiar interaction, but I could be wrong. I just would have liked more from this than what we got. One scene between the two could have done it (though it probably would have been done with a handheld camera).
Shannon: I wouldn't say the two characters hated each other THAT much, but there is definitely something there. My guess would be that Frank hated his mother because of how she treated his sister (school, school, math, no friends or fun), and that is exactly why he didn't want her to have custody of Mary and why her mother wanted her to be a kid. All Evelyn cared about was her daughter solving the Millennium problem because she gave up her math to raise a family. To me, this was pretty evident after he pulled out that box in the end.
Also, I just want to say that my heart broke when the flyer of Fred was shown. Thanks Captain America for saving him. All shelters need to be no kill. So horrible.
Do you have anything else you'd like to touch on?
David: I agree. Fred for life - this should totally be a meme. Captain America saving a one eyed cat. I don’t have anything else. I’m giving the movie a “B”. What’s your rating Shannon?
Shannon: I'm going to give Gifted a “Liked It” rating. It was well put together, funny, and very entertaining. Everyone should go see it when it hits theaters!!
David and Shannon write about movies.