This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy sentimentality, making us a little nervous about where it might go. But director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) holds his nerve, letting the emotions build without ever tipping over into melodrama. What emerges is a striking exploration of the tricky connections between parents and children and the importance of makeshift families. And it's so sharply played that it can't help but move us.
It's set in rural Florida, where the quietly intelligent Frank (Chris Evans) is hiding out from his academically minded mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), trying to give his 6-year-old niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) the free-spirited childhood his late sister wanted for her. Their life includes sassy neighbour Roberta (Octavia Spencer) and a one-eyed cat named Fred. But Mary is a mathematical prodigy, and her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) is worried that the public school can't keep up with her. This alerts Evelyn to Mary's gifts and, after taking no interest before, she sweeps in with a legal challenge to Frank's custody. Like her daughter and granddaughter, Evelyn is also a maths genius, and believes that Mary's abilities need to be exploited in a higher-class educational environment.
While the argument about what's better for this little girl is fairly simple, Tom Flynn's script never lapses into the usual trite courtroom drama. And while there are a lot of formulae scribbled on white boards, the focus is always on the people rather than the numbers. Thankfully, these characters also never turn into heroes or villains; each is just trying to do what they think is best. This means that the actors can invest unusual depth into the roles, adding surprisingly sharp edges while revealing their softer sides as well. Evans has rarely had a chance to flex like this as an actor, and he's terrific, creating some powerful chemistry with the, yes, gifted Grace.
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Mary is a bright and happy little girl who lives with her uncle, Frank; he is her guardian and care giver since the death of her mother. Frank's sister made his promise that he'd always do right by her daughter and give her the most normal life possible - despite her loss.
Frank and Mary have a very close relationship and Frank home tutors the little blonde haired girl but as she gets older and her ability to learn more develops, Frank decides it's time for his niece to enrol at the local junior school. Despite Mary's pleas (and discussion to the point of 'Ad nauseum') to her uncle to let her stay home, Frank knows that she must start adjusting to a more normal way of life.
Howard School is a friendly local elementary and for the first time in her life, Mary is part of a classroom and soon her teacher discovers that Mary is an extremely clever girl - a child genius. The head teacher approaches her uncle Frank and tells him that she could potentially get Mary enrolled at a school for gifted children but thinking about his sisters last wishes, Frank decides she's best where she is.
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Saw II made me feel like I was watching that same thing for 90 odd minutes. It's a picture as revolting as it is needless.
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Showgirls is the capper in writer Joe Eszterhas' storied career. First came Flashdance. Then he shocked us with Basic Instinct. Then he writes Showgirls, an ultra-explicit NC-17 drama about a Las Vegas showgirl who goes from nobody to "Goddess" by playing the Power Game better than everyone else.
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