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Gifted (Blu-ray Review)

Gifted is the kind of film where an emotional courtroom scene plays out, with rain just outside the window to emphasize the drama, but you don’t mind because the main characters involved still spend relaxed moments with each other minutes later. This is a film that traffics in ideas expected from stories dealing with legal guardianship over precocious children but is still quite likable thanks to the rapport shared between the cast members. It’s not sly enough to suggest a level of self-awareness and the way it plays out is certainly in line with your average tearjerker. It’s just a good thing I didn’t mind spending time with these people. Given the relatively small budget, the film was a moderate success in theaters, but can now be seen on Blu-ray.

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Film:

The gifted individual in question is 7-year-old Mary (Mckenna Grace). She lives in a small town in Florida and begins the film by heading off to her first day of school. Bored in class and quick to talk back, we quickly learn that Mary is a mathematical prodigy, but her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) is determined to provide her an ordinary life, by keeping her away from schools that would both challenge her and take away her chance to be a kid. Frank is the de facto guardian for various reasons, and the eventual arrival of his mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) calls this into question, once learning of Mary’s potential.

You may be able to see where things are going from there, especially since the script by Tom Flynn is less about surprises than it is about how these characters relate to each other. Given the Florida setting, one could even look to a film like this in relation to a Nicolas Sparks drama, save for the fact that the dialogue is far from dull and hacky. The effort was put in to take this emotionally manipulative story and inject it with a sense of warmth that comes from the attitudes characters share with each other and the natural banter that develops.

This is never more apparent than with Evans and Grace, who play quite naturally off each other. Their relationship is obviously essential to the film’s success, and this is indeed a highlight. Evans gets to shine a lot in this film, as his laid back charm (easily displaying his pleasure in taking a break from super heroics) extends itself to the relationships he has with co-stars Duncan, Octavia Spencer, and Jenny Slate. Since every character is competent and intelligent, it only further strengthens the level of respect I can give to those involved in a film so clearly designed to make an audience cry.

I called the film drama, but it does have plenty of humor. It’s found in all that interplay I appreciated. Of course, the supporting cast leaves an impression also to help move things along. For instance, Spencer doesn’t need to be a part of this cast, but with a Fox studio contract and an ability to fit comfortably with any group and feel like a grounded presence, who’s going to say “no” to her? Even some simple scenes between Evans and Glenn Plummer as his lawyer play less like exposition and more like old friends talking.

Director Marc Webb, who has returned from the blockbuster world handed to him with The Amazing Spider-Man films and now working in territory that calls back to his initial film offering, (500) Day so of Summer, holds back on the flashiness in favor of character focus. He has a pro, cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, doing the best he can with the beachy Florida setting. Webb’s music video directing origins also afford him the chance to build a fine soundtrack.

It’s not all witty banter and well-lit scenes though. While not stooping to levels as low as The Judge, there are only so many fresh ways to put together a film with legal battles taking up significant screentime. Since so many films like this have used Kramer vs. Kramer as a jumping off point, it’s hard not to look at how played out scenes of lawyers digging into protagonists to an exaggerated extent have become. But Gifted also provides a judge played by a character actor who’s probably been a judge in hundreds of films and feels so natural. It’s not like I’m making excuses for the movie, there’s just no reason to deny the choices made that work.

There is a concern created through a lack of Mary in the film’s final third, which is more of a problem. Young Mckenna Grace is way too delightful in her role to have us switch gears over to a feud between her uncle and grandmother. The plot machinations used to bring their squabbles to a head and be sure to incorporate mathematics gives the film a feeling of some soap opera version of Good Will Hunting. Still, the well-worn territory only holds the film back so far, when it’s genuinely touching in its execution.

Gifted may not be too much of a challenge for those seeking more from their films about legal guardians struggling to do the best for their kids, but it still puts its best foot forward. The film is suitably made and well-acted by its cast. There is enough in the script to have me enjoy the way these people interacted, even when considering just how clear things were in what the film wanted to get out of the audience. It’s a familiar drama, but an affecting one, with enough charm.

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Thanks to the use of many outdoor environments found in the Florida location where the film was shot, Gifted has a great look suitable for this HD transfer. There is plenty of clarity to be found in the scenery, as well as the indoor moments. Detail levels are quite strong, which is fitting enough given how brightly lit this film is.

Depth: Good spacing seen throughout this film. Again, the use of many outdoor locations helps in selling the depth of field.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and effective. No signs of crush and the numerous outdoor scenes are benefited by a good handle on shadows and other darker elements.

Color Reproduction: This is a bright film with a lot of warm and natural colors. It all works in making the colors, in general, stand out as needed.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures register strongly here. You get a lot of close-ups that do their job to reflect the actors properly. A good amount of detail fairs very well, especially in showing the constant scruff on Chris Evans’ face.

Noise/Artifacts: This disc is clean.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The 5.1 lossless track does plenty to make for an enjoyable auditory experience. Hearing the various atmospheric sounds in the film and heavy play from the score registers very well.

Low-Frequency Extension: The LFE channel doesn’t get a whole lot of play, but subtle moments track.

Surround Sound Presentation: The balance is solid here, even if the film is mostly dialogue-heavy and is not out to impress on a grand scale. There is an emphasis on the center and front channels, though the rear channels do get a chance to add when needed.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.

 

Extras:

Featuring a large set of EPKs and no other real in-depth insight, it may be a shame to those who wanted to learn a lot more about the film. Still, some insight can be found.

Features Include:

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 8:13)
  • Gifted: HBO First Look (HD, 13:32)
  • Story (HD, 2:08)
  • An Accomplished Task (HD, 2:06)
  • Inside the Equation (HD, 1:37)
  • Marc’s Method (HD, 1:27)
  • On Location: Gifted (HD, 1:57)
  • Photo Gallery (HD, 2:05)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:29)
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

Gifted may not be the most subtle film, but it makes up for it by having a strong cast and a solid handle on letting this dramatic plot play out with an assured breeziness. It also looks great thanks to the use of locations and the solid video transfer handling for this Blu-ray release. The sound is strong too. There may not be too many substantial extras, but they play well enough for those looking for a bit more about the film. This may affect others more, but regardless, it’s a good enough movie to check out and the kind of smaller film that works for easy viewing.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Gifted (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gregg

    Loved this movie!!!