From the director of the surprise hit “500 Days of Summer,” Marc Webb helms his latest endearing story “Gifted” – starring the world’s beloved captain Chris Evans along with the über-talented Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and rising young star Grace McKenna.
Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank's intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank. As family tensions and disconnections flare, uncle and niece find support in Roberta (Octavia Spencer), their protective landlady and best friend, and Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate), a young woman whose concern for her student soon develops into a relationship with her uncle as well.
“Gifted” began its journey to the big screen when producer Karen Lunder, who has produced an assortment of films including “Arrival,” remembers a conversation with producer Andy Cohen in which she asked: “‘What do you have that’s great and different? What is the thing you’re most excited about?’ He sent me “Gifted.” When I read the script, it had this timeless quality to it. It felt like the kind of movies I grew up watching: it was a throwback of sorts to films of the 70’s and early 80’s that weren’t afraid to make you laugh and cry – that were both escapist and real.”
Like Lunder and Cohen, director Webb responded immediately to the writing. “I kept on waiting for this script to get bad, but it just kept getting better. It was simple, warm and uncynical. The writing felt nourishing to me. Mary and Frank are something like a comedy team with a lot of heart. After spending so many years on bigger movies, I just wanted to hang out with these two.”
In his career, Chris Evans has judiciously chosen a balance of blockbuster and smaller, more interior films. He picked “Gifted” for many reasons but says: “It was more the director than the role. You can have a great role and a great script. You can have a lot of pieces in place but if you don’t have a great director, you don’t have much. So for me it was Marc Webb.”
Webb is particularly pleased that “Gifted” is a movie in which all the intellectual powerhouses are women. “It’s a movie where women are really brilliant and it’s not done as a stunt. It’s something that feels weirdly rare, I don’t know why. I love the idea of having girls who are good at math, women who are good at math. I mean, it happens in the world but we just don’t always recognize that in cinema.”
Webb also thinks that fathers will respond to the message of the film, if his own reaction is any example: “I’m a forty-year-old dude, and I got choked up. All the burly grips hid behind the duvateen (light blocking fabric) because they were crying. I think men are not encouraged to feel, which I think is one of the challenges that Frank has to face, but of course men are emotional creatures too.”
“Gifted” will open in cinemas on May 3 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.