So it's no surprise that when Marc Webb — the 500 Days of Summer and Spider Man director, who also seems to be trying to move back to more meaningful work — came knocking, the almighty actor jumped at the chance.
Gifted feels like both of their attempts to do better. Based on a script that was selected for the 2014 Black List, the Sundance-style drama tells the story of Frank (Evans) a single mechanic living with his adopted niece, Mary (Mckenna Grace), a child prodigy with a penchant for solving complex equations, in coastal Florida. Frank's goal is to give Mary a normal life, something her mother (a talented academic who took her own) never had. When a well-meaning public school teacher named Bonnie (Jenny Slate, trying to transition to more serious roles) discovers Mary's math skills and suggests she move up into a more accelerated program, the whole family dynamic is thrown into disarray, as old skeletons are unearthed and a long lost relative comes into play. Soon, Frank must fight for child custody.
Part Good Will Hunting, part Manchester by the Sea, Gifted tries to be both wicked smart and a total tearjerker, but unfortunately only succeeds part of the time. Characters come and go (Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer apparently plays a bigger role in the characters' lives than she actually does on screen), problems pop up but we never see how they're solved and, even for viewers paying close attention, it's sometimes hard to understand how things get from one scene to the next (there are definitely a few clips connecting everything together that got lost on the cutting room floor).
Still, Gifted is an engaging drama about the roles we play in life. It just doesn't solve everything it probably should. (Fox Searchlight)