Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Movie Review - The Giver

The Giver (2014)
Starring Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, and Taylor Swift
Directed by Philip Noyce

I never read The Giver growing up so despite the Lois Lowry book being a staple of many folks' youth, it held no revered place in my mind.  I thought that may help things given how the general public opinion of director Philip Noyce's adaptation was that of disappointment upon the film's release this summer.  Unfortunately, it didn't.  While visually appealing, The Giver fails to deliver anything new on a science fiction premise we've seen before.  (Granted, perhaps the novel The Giver gave us this premise first...but in the cinematic world, this movie feels like old news.)

The year is 2048 and following some horrific events, a community has decided to erase all memory of its inhabitants in an attempt to create a "perfect" city in which everyone lives peacefully together.  The experiment is seemingly working as sixteen year old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned his career at the annual graduation ceremony.  Jonas is deemed "special" and is granted the right to visit The Giver (Jeff Bridges), the only member of the community who retains the memories of the past.  These memories are utilized by the Giver to advise the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) to shape the community's actions.  Aging, however, the Giver begins to pass on his memories to Jonas who finds his community's robotic and sterile atmosphere disturbing and decides to do something to shake things up a bit.

Unfortunately, this "utopian" society thing feels so played out nowadays and The Giver comes at (one can only hope) the tail end of this sci-fi subgenre.  While visually appealing (director Philip Noyce begins the film is stark blacks, whites, and grays and only introduces colors as Jonas begins to receive memories), the film feels simplistic and childish at times.  It lacks the metaphorical messages that I assume it wished to espouse.  The young Thwaites is fine, but he's really quite emotionless and his character's romantic subplot with a young gal just weighs the film down with unneeded teenage angst.  Meryl Streep is okay, but certainly nothing special, and Jeff Bridges mumbles so incoherently at times that I felt like I wanted to put on the subtitles.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-


  1. I was assigned this book to read in 3 different grades. I think I even didn't read it one of the times (very uncharacteristic)--but that was only because I owned it and read it a bunch of times outside of school anyway.

    Agree on the movie. Only subjected myself to it because I had car issues and had to be dropped off to work very early one day. It was all that was on.
    Besides--the book is more of a 10- to 12-year-old range, I would guess. They aged the main character for film. I think he is 11/12 in the book. That really skewed the plot/messaging for me.

  2. I went on Wikipedia when I was writing this review and saw that the protagonist was a kid in the book. Did he still "fall in love" with the girl?

    I was a fan of the film's look, but didn't give a darn about the story.

  3. No--no "fall in love" in the book. If I remember right, he notices her hair (red--like the apple) and likes that she cares about the elderly (that's where she ends up being assigned in the book) and starts to have some feelings he doesn't understand ("the stirrings!"--quickly suppressed by pills), but there is no love story. And it's not like Jonas, the goofing-off kid, and Fiona are all best buds. It's more just Jonas and the Giver. And Jonas and Gabe. And just generally Jonas--a lot of internal stuff. It's a pretty short book, but the Giver/Rosemary thing isn't that big either, as I remember. I mean, it's big to the Giver, but not forever running through the book.