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MOVIE REVIEW

The Giver
Dir: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgârd, and Katie Holmes
Monte’s Rating
2.00 out of 5.00


Movie Review — “The Giver”

MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 8/27/2014

The beloved Lois Lowry novel “The Giver” was a self-interpretive experience for readers. Discovery of individualized emotional conditions and thought provoking open-ended questions were two major components in bringing the reader into the dystopian world. Director Phillip Noyce offered some interesting design elements but adapted the source material with highlights and forced interpretations, unfortunately giving the viewer nothing to truly contemplate.

Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in a colorless world of contentment and conformity. When young adults in the community reach a certain age they are given responsibilities within society. Jonas is given the special calling as the receiver of memory. The Giver (Jeff Bridges) has been the sole keeper of memory as a source of guidance to the governing authority. Jonas’ power is knowledge and while at first his experience is eye opening with excitement and a happiness never felt, it soon turns to fear and anger over the secrets of the past and how they are hidden from the community. In order to save the people he cares for, Jonas must escape.

“The Giver,” coming first in the recent hash of dystopian young adult novels, had a clear influence on the “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” series.  It didn’t take long to see how familiar everything felt and looked on screen in this rendering. Much like the film adaptation of the formative science fiction novel “John Carter,” “The Giver” suffered from being a late bloomer. Characters, settings, and narrative twists felt overly familiar. A complaisant dystopia society with varying degrees of controlled class structure leads toward a rebellion. At the center of the story was a young savior tasked with demanding expectations that ultimately displayed lessons of admirable character qualities. This simplistic description could describe all these films.

However, while familiarity and a one-dimensional approach to the challenging source material ultimately hindered “The Giver,” Noyce displayed some great design qualities throughout. While Jonas was in the early stages of discovery, shown through a boring clutter of representative images, he began to experience strong emotions of love and happiness.  After this gained feeling, Noyce changed the gray world palette with bursts of color to show Jonas’ enlightenment.

Jeff Bridges did a decent enough job as The Giver, the best scenes involving Brenton Thwaites and Bridges discussing the ramifications of the past. The remaining cast, all fine actors like Meryl Streep as a cold authoritarian or Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgârd as an unfeeling “family unit,” had a few worthwhile scenes but were unfortunately shouldered with a script that didn’t offer much more for them. 

The interpretation of “The Giver” may mean something different today because of emotional maturity and experience, that’s the brilliance of great literature. This film adaptation was underwhelming and overly simplified, proposing a valuable message within a muddled and vague portrayal.