Talented newcomer McKenna Grace takes titular role in ‘Gifted’

An impressive ensemble of actors led by Chris Evans along with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Lindsay Duncan and Jenny Slate support young multi-talented actress McKenna Grace as she takes on the titular role in director Marc Webb’s “Gifted.”

Evans plays Frank Adler, uncle and guardian of Mary (Grace) in “Gifted” who both lead normal lives until Evelyn (Duncan), Frank’s mom and Mary’s grandmother, decides to take custody of her grandchild. Frank’s sister entrusted him to raise Mary after she died for fear that her daughter might also be subjected to the pressures she’s been through as a prodigy. But as soon as Evelyn finds out about Mary’s intellectual state, Frank finds himself in a custody battle to keep Mary under his care.

On finding the right child-actor, director Webb insists there was a good reason for the massive search: “I couldn’t have made “Gifted” unless I found the right Mary Adler. It was the biggest hurdle to making the movie. There’s an emotional depth and sophistication you don’t see very often in an actor, but for a child, that’s a level of
virtuosity that is incredibly rare.”

Mckenna remembers it was very stressful meeting Marc Webb for the first time. “They had given me the wrong sides (scenes) to read, so he just gave them to me in the hallway. I had five minutes to memorize them. But once the audition was over, we just talked and had a fun time. I wanted this movie more than any movie I’ve ever wanted.” She says that she and Webb “had an amazing connection together. He was the perfect director for this job because we needed someone with a big, caring, loving, heart. He let me take my time when there was a crying scene. I would walk in, and he’d sit by the camera and he would cry with me, so then I didn’t really feel alone.”

Mckenna says she also learned a lot from working with Evans. “He was very focused on the set, and sometimes he would sit down and help me with my script.” Evans treated her “more like a friend, like he treats Mary. I really like that he treated me that way, except he did try not to say bad words around me.”

Mckenna proves that she has a different kind of perspective, genius or not. When asked what the message in “Gifted” means to her, she gives a most moving and simple answer: “At the end of the day, no one can tell you if your family is perfect or not. You may just have a mom, or you may just live with your daddy, or two moms and two dads, or you may live with your grandparents, or you may have an uncle like Mary does. People say that the perfect family has to have a mom and dad, a big amazing house and a lot of money. But as long as you have a loving, caring person that you live with, then I think that’s perfect for you.”

“Gifted” opens May 3, 2017 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox as distributed by Warner Bros.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Noah (2014)

In spite of being in the hands of a capable artist, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) proves to be a misfire in terms of its purpose, creating a miscalculated conversation between the uncalled-for tension of faith and intellect.

It’s hard to put a rationale in a tale that’s based on a parable driven by fantasy and myth. The fiction element of the bible is the reason why it has been preserved with universal moral value, without questioning its integrity and believability, earning the faith from the believers and the respect from the skeptics. The biggest issue with Noah is that it tries so hard to give a rationale to a story that isn’t supposed to be rationalized. That being said, it gave unnecessary conflict, almost as if it’s a faith vs. common sense game. Ultimately, it unintentionally pictures religion as a form of madness instead of a respectable spiritual concept. Thus, Noah’s actions have been oftentimes portrayed as villainous instead of heroic, as all other characters start to question his intentions and sanity. It highlights so much on how the silence of God’s message to mankind becomes lost in translation, and ultimately blurry, leaving everyone with their own version of subjective judgment. Thus, the divide of opinion becomes a series of tumultuous miscommunication between the chosen one and his subordinates. For a parable, the least you can offer is a tale of incomprehension of one’s faith.

On a technical perspective, the film is generous of its CGI effects. Perhaps, too abundant, that oftentimes it seems that it’s a video game than a biblical story. The overblown special effects overshadow the film’s merit in almost the first half of the film.

Aronofsky’s vanity to his project spews so much in so many sequences where he tried to use his Requiem for a Dream technique of rapid succession of images, giving that avant garde vibe — something that I find unnecessary for this material. Occasionally an existentialist thriller, sometimes Transformers, minimally The Bible, oftentimes The Tree of Life — this proves to be Aronofsky’s weakest and most inconsistent direction in his career.

The cast is good, particularly Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly, but even their OK performances aren’t enough to lift these derailed characters out of the film’s confused narrative.

Overall, Noah isn’t the best from Aronofsky, and perhaps is one of the weaker biblical adaptations to be done on screen. Maybe, the best way to tell a story directly from an iconic biblical tale is to tell it as is — no more rock monsters, no more incestuous creation-of-life twists, no more evil images from a supposed faithful and renowned hero. Tell it as it is.


2 out of 5 stars