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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

[GUEST] Gifted Movie Review

GUEST WRITER: Don Shanahan is a fellow Chicago film critic of "Every Movie Has a Lesson." He is an elementary educator who writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. Don is one of the directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Association (CIFCC). Please welcome him as an occasional contributor to Eman's Movie Reviews.

The Trailer:
The Good:
Aside from any cinematic cliches present, there is an exemplary central message the new film “Gifted” gets utterly and perfectly right in both its actions and its words.  As an elementary school educator, it is one I equally and personally champion every single day.  The notion is worth leading with one of my website’s signature life lessons.

LESSON #1: LET KIDS BE KIDS-- Allow “Gifted” or this school teacher right here tell you and show you that too much academic pressure is placed on school-aged children these days.  They take too many high-stakes tests and spend too many hours doing rote and mindless homework.  College prep can start in high school, but leave it off of seven-year-olds.  Even geniuses can cultivate being well-rounded.  Let them go outside, skin a few knees, build something, and find activities they enjoy.  Feed those brains with experiences and not just book-based knowledge. Need ideas?  Here’s just one list of many things to do instead of homework.

This film presents the closest Chris Evans has come yet to playing his age (35) and a parental-like role.  Evans channels his always engaging charisma into a role requiring his stoicism to be used for brevity rather than heroism.  It’s an emotional and endearing breath of fresh air.  “Gifted” reminds us there is a confident and assured actor underneath that chiseled superhero exterior.  Holding both his hand and our own, Mckenna Grace will make off with your heart in short order.  The two share superb and contagious chemistry, boosted by an extra little sprinkle of charm from underused Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in a small supporting role.

The Bad

Tom Flynn’s rescued script from the 2014 Hollywood Black List does falter with two maddening tropes that cannot be ignored.  First, putting a hunk like Chris Evans in a film unfortunately demands an unnecessary and mildly preposterous love interest that demeans the talent of Jenny Slate.  She (and we) deserved better.  Second, if you’ve seen one grandstanding or speechifying movie courtroom scene with shouting or tears, you’ve seen them all.  This story is markedly better when it is out of the courtroom or the bedroom and showcasing the bond of memories being made and principles being built by an impressionable child and her dutiful guardian.

The Reason

What saves these cliches from turning the beachfront tonic of “Gifted” entirely into syrupy grenadine is the steady guidance of director Marc Webb.  “Gifted” is a return to smaller domestic fare for the “(500) Days of Summer” filmmaker after steering two big budget “Amazing Spider-Man” films.  This is his ideal directorial speed.  Nothing tonally is laid on too thick, from Stuart Dryburgh’s lens to soak in the Savannah shooting locations to Rob Simonsen’s unobtrusive musical score.  Those and other artistic elements could have really overplayed the melodrama but did not.  The importance of “Gifted” was the stance of its message, and Webb kept it on point, earned the dramatic heft, and avoided full-on preaching.

The Rating: 7.5/10
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My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs

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