Arts & Leisure

“Gifted” is gifted with fine acting

McKENNA GRACE and Chris Evans star in “Gifted.”

By Jim Tortolano

It’s not easy for me to get interested in a movie about higher mathematics. I think of algebra and geometry in the same way that most folks react to tetanus shots and IRS audits.

But I made an exception for “Gifted,” a gem of a movie about a 7-year-old girl who is a math prodigy, and so should you. As a matter of fact, McKenna Grace, who portrays Mary, girl genius, is a bit of an acting prodigy as well, displaying a range of acting skills that would put most adult thespians to shame.

Here’s the premise. Her bachelor uncle Frank (Chris Evans, best-known for playing “Captain America”) is her guardian and they live in informal circumstances in Florida, years after the suicide death of her mother.

After some home schooling, Frank decides to put Mary into a regular public school, where the teacher and principal soon discover her extraordinary aptitude for math and push to get her enrolled at a prestigious private academy. No, thanks, say uncle and niece.

Enter Frank’s mother (Lindsay Duncan, the perfect frosty I-know-better-than-you well-meaning villain) who wants custody of the little genius so she can whisk her away to Massachusetts and a well-disciplined life.

As you might guess, legal battles are enjoined, hidden secrets are revealed and there is a happy ending. It may all sound like a mashup of “The Client,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Heidi,” but it rises well above that with excellent performances by Grace, as well as Evans and a feisty neighbor (Octavia Spencer). Duncan, of course, stands out as the mom you’d love to hate.

You don’t need to know much math to like this one a lot. It all adds up to a very satisfying film.

“Gifted” is rated PG-13 for some adult language.

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