Most directors would envy a debut as successful as Marc Webb's 2009 Golden Globe-nominated film, (500) Days of Summer. Webb then took a bit of a leap by following-up his rom-com with superhero blockbusters, The Amazing Spider-Man and its 2014 sequel. But success is fickle in this industry and, like many do, the filmmaker has gone from being handed a major franchise to taking on the new limited-release drama, Gifted.
Chris Evans trades in his Captain America uniform for a much simpler life as Frank Adler, a boat repairman raising his deceased sister's child, Mary (Mckenna Grace), who's firm understanding of advanced mathematics is a rarity. But as Frank pushes Mary towards a conventional childhood built on playing and making friends in the public school sector, rather than a taxing life of studying rigorous mathematics at a specialized institution, his mother (Lindsay Duncan) resurfaces and takes legal action with a custody battle over guardianship of the seven year-old girl.
As a professor of mathematics myself, Gifted's distinct premise certainly raised my interest. Marc Webb's latest work attempts to master the delicate balance between a hearty drama and frequent humor. Chris Evans' sarcastic delivery feels organic and newcomer McKenna Grace offers an impressive turn as well, however the entire cast ultimately becomes limited by a one-dimensional screenplay. At it's core, Gifted merely scratches the surface of its fundamental moral quandary regarding whether or not a truly exceptional child prodigy should be pushed towards a lifetime commitment of study and research as a duty to humanity, or if they're should also be entitled to a "normal" upbringing. But rather than tackling this issue head-on, Gifted tip-toes around the predicament with an overly sentimental examination of its story. Regrettably, co-stars Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate find their talents wasted as expendable characters who are written into the script as obvious fillers. Yet. while Gifted does manage to boast a few tender moments of cinematic expression, they are far too sporadic to withstand a fatally flawed screenplay from writer Tom Flynn.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
One of the strangest and most original stories out of this year's SXSW festival comes from none other than Nacho Vigalondo. And although his film has enjoyed a nice little run on the festival circuit, with a premiere in Toronto and an inclusion at Sundance, Colossal finally finds a limited theatrical release in select cities later this month. Vigalondo teams his unconventional comedy tale with the fully committed talents of Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis in this truly limitless story.
After losing her job and being kicked out of her boyfriend's apartment, Gloria (Hathaway) is forced to bite the bullet and move back to her hometown. Upon her return she runs into Oscar (Sudeikis), a former classmate and current bar owner who offers Gloria a job at his establishment to try and help her get back on her feet. But as her work life transitions into after-hours binge drinking, Gloria soon discovers an unexplained connection between her and a giant monster that's been terrorizing the citizens of South Korea.
If the premise of Colossal sounds absolutely absurd, it's because it undoubtedly is. However, the clever metaphor created by Nacho Vigalondo surrounding the monster we can become when we've had one too many to drink screams originality. However, Vigalondo's clear aptitude for conjuring up a new and fresh idea becomes soured by the film's tone-deaf delivery. Colossal cycles around moments of comedy, romance, action and drama with reckless abandon, unsure of what it wants to be and how it should get there. The effort works best as a comedy, but completely spins off the rails in a gritty third act that trades its laughs for a superhero-like finale that Hathaway against an unsuspecting foe. Colossal possesses so much promise from a creative standpoint, allowing me to believe that Nacho Vigalondo has plenty more left in the tank. Yet, despite immensely committed performances from Hathaway and Sudeikis, Colossal remains too scatter-brained and unfocused to delivery the knockout punch that Vigalondo is desperately going for.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4