Gifted: keep the Kleenex close

Gifted is a touching story about family (in all its many, complicated forms), loss, forgiveness and helping children reach their potential in the various aspects of their lives. It’s the story about a young girl named Mary whose uncle is dedicated to raising her to be a normal child. But Mary isn’t normal. She’s a math prodigy whose family has more than their fair share of baggage.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie but picked it up at WPL because, let’s be honest, Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer are in a movie together. Did I mention Chris Evans? But I digress … I knew very little about this movie before popping it in my DVD player but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became engaged in the lives of this family.

This film has got a lot of heart, a touch of humour and, like I mentioned, a truly stellar cast. We have Chris ‘Captain America’ Evans as Frank Adler, the uncle who is trying to do his best to raise his young and brilliant niece so that she leads a normal life. I enjoyed seeing a new, tender side to Evans and I liked that he got to exercise his acting chops more than his biceps in this movie.

gifted-648673583-largeThen you have Oscar winner Octavia Spencer who is always captivating and could play a potted palm that would leave me slack jawed in awe of her. The only person in this film who can hold a candle to Ms Spencer may be young McKenna Grace who plays Mary Adler, the 7-year-old child at the heart of the movie. Wow, can this girl act. Grace is as talented as her eye lashes are long. Her portrayal of the precocious, brilliant young girl is wonderfully natural, touching and believable. She vacillates between childish innocence, a spunky attitude, a wee case of potty mouth and shows viewers Mary’s extraordinary brilliance which is well beyond her years. The deep connection between Evans and Grace comes through to the audience and I recommend that viewers keep some Kleenex handy.

The cast of characters also had a complexity to them that I wasn’t expecting. This is a complicated family situation filled with emotion, power struggles and grief. You’ll feel for Frank as he struggles to figure out what is best for Mary in the wake of family upheaval that threatens to damage the bond between them.

Overall, this is a wonderful little movie that is endearing, poignant and shows the complexities of family. You will quickly become wrapped up in the lives of Frank, Mary and even Fred, their one-eyed cat. I highly recommend this movie.

— Laurie P.

A glimpse of old Hollywood

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an utterly engaging look at a Hollywood icon – her trials, tribulations, successes and multiple marriages – as she struggles to make her way in life, love and career within the confines of Hollywood and those she creates for herself.

Evelyn is a complex character. She’s stunningly beautiful, head strong and confident in some aspects of her life. As a young woman, she doesn’t always make the right choices but she’s a compelling character that readers will gravitate towards. Readers will become engrossed in Evelyn’s life as she struggles to find love, accept love and find her true self – unabashedly and totally. Personally, I loved the older Evelyn who had paid her dues, made her mistakes and came out of it all with a quiet confidence, strength and self-awareness.

 Evelyn isn’t a character that I’d normally enjoy … and yet, I liked her. I really liked her. She’s exceptionally flawed but she’s aware of many of her flaws – she accepts some, regrets a few and is unashamed of many. She has used her body and played the Hollywood game to further her career in an industry that didn’t value strong, independent women. She made horrible choices, betrayed loved ones and even ignored parts of her own identity to further her career. But underlying it all there was always a glimmer of a woman I could get behind as a main character and I wanted to see her succeed, despite herself. 

The story is told with two different time lines with Reid dropping juicy tidbits to keep her readers attention. The first timeline follows Evelyn as a young starlet in Hollywood and the other, decades later, focuses on an elderly Evelyn as she tells her life story to Monique, a young, unknown journalist. There are some twists thrown in and the mystery of why Monique was chosen to write the memoir added mystery to the book. 

 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing read that gives readers a bird’s eye view into Hollywood and touches on some bigger issues, including sexism, sexuality, owning up to one’s choices and even has its touching and romantic scenes too. 

Your emotions will get a work out with this book. You’ll laugh, feel exasperated, cry, get all mushy with true love and even enraged! And through it all you’ll find yourself cheering on this unique, sassy and flawed character who persevered, lied, loved and betrayed to achieve success at the box office and in her personal life as she struggled to know herself. This is some wonderful storytelling that would make a fantastic summer read if you want to delve into old Hollywood with a truly unique and flawed character that you can’t help but root for.

-Laurie P.