“He’s A Good Person. He Wanted Me Before I Was Smart…”
Aside from making moves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America, Chris Evans is very seldom seen in other visual ventures between the criss-crossing of fighting Tony Stark and aiding the woes of Bucky Barnes, and whilst this week’s release of Gifted is a far stretch away from CGI-fuelled mayhem and size-bending superheroes, the charismatic manner of the Hollywood star is indeed a welcome sight in a drama which allows Evans to convey his acting abilities and prove that muscle mass and tight rubber pants are not the only thing he feels comfortable doing. Directed by Marc Webb, a director renowned for the indie sensation which was (500) Days of Summer but probably best known in the geek world for the very good The Amazing Spider-Man and the not so good 2014 sequel, Gifted is a charmingly grounded family drama, one which includes a zippy and snappy narrative rife with effective comedic dialogue and tropes, and too a film which although could be classed as a good example of emotive manipulation, offers good enough reasons to bypass the saccharin sweetness at times and just enjoy the ride whilst it lasts. As the great Roger Ebert stated, “Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it’s done well”.
Focusing on the one-two uncle and niece duo of Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace), Gifted begins primarily by setting the scene of the drama which is set to unfold, with seven year old Mary attending school for the first time and becoming increasingly noted for her outstanding mathematical abilities and street-wise nature which extends way past each and all of her similarly aged peers. At the heart of the narrative too is both the kind-hearted and softly spoken first-grade teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) and the Cruella de Vil-esque character of the piece, Evelyn Adler (Lindsay Duncan) who interrupts the peace and tranquillity of Frank’s quest for a normal life in order to fulfil her own petulant and wholly selfish commemorative wishes, using Mary as a pawn in a proceeding tale of family breakups and legal scaremongering, all in a quest for Evelyn’s view of the greater good. Whilst both Mckenna and Evans give both incredibly charming performances, using the great chemistry between them effectively within an array of heartwarming comedic scenes which focus on the innocence of youth and the hardship of fatherhood, Gifted does suffer from a rather overly ripe shiny-happy-people ending and the inclusion of Duncan’s steely-eyed antagonist does come across as slightly too boo-hiss at times to feel a natural fit for the overall feel of the movie. Webb knows how to do the mis-fit, slightly kooky comedy drama well, and whilst Gifted isn’t as flashy as (500) Days of Summer, it sure worked for the most part in which I was emotionally invested with its’ loving, leading characters.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Just ‘Cause It’s The Way, Doesn’t Make It Right, Understand?”
As per expected this time of year, the ramble of releases which preempt the final preparations regarding Oscar season can become somewhat overpowering at times, with cinephiles across the globe attempting to squeeze in all the real hitters before the madness all begins. From the easily accessible Best Picture nods to the not-so easily found Foreign Language picks and across to endless repeat viewings of the work of the selected cinematographers, Oscar season is definitely one of a kind, and with the confirmed nominations for the ceremony now being released to the world, three remain to be seen by us here at Black Ribbon in their vow for supremacy in regards to the best the year has had to offer, beginning ever so swiftly with this week’s release Hidden Figures and concluding with Fences and Moonlight in the coming weeks. Following in the critical success of St. Vincent, director Theodore Melfi brings the true tale of NASA’s 1960’s space program to life, highlighting extensively the importance of the groundbreaking trio of engineer Mary Jackson and mathematicians Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn, all of whom were integral to the success of the space race in a time in which racial prejudice was inherently rife, an element of which plays an key part of Melfi’s latest, an uplifting drama which effortlessly tells an important tale without ever seeping from its’ addictive sugar-coated sweetness.
If it wasn’t for the absence of the prestigious gates of Disneyland preceding the beginning of the movie, Hidden Figures could be excused for being just another Disney-fuelled historical drama, with the film being a solid example of a movie which seeps so strongly and unashamedly from the cesspool of classic film-making, you wouldn’t necessarily be smirked at for suspecting the world had travelled back to the 1960’s itself. Whilst Hidden Figures gets the job well and truly done without any sense of real adventure or expansion into organic territory, Melfi takes the classical approach to the material by giving us a interesting non-fiction tale and ramping up the elements of racial tension to the extreme in order to successfully add another level of drama to a proceeding of just over two hours. Whilst the Oscar nod in terms of acting has ultimately been handed to Octavia Spencer for her supporting role in the movie, the real winner of the picture is obviously Taraji P. Henson for her portrayal of the mathematical genius Katherine Johnson. yet any recognition at all is undeniably deserved for a movie which although is indeed a dramatic success, ultimately isn’t as dynamic or memorable as those figures of history it attempts to portray.