Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Giver

Releases August 15th, 2014
1 hr 34 mins
Rated PG-13


Director: Phillip Noyce


Jeff Bridges as The Giver
Meryl Streep as The Chief Elder
Brenton Thwaites as Jonas
Alexander SkarsgÄrd as Jonas' father
Odeya Rush as Fiona
Katie Holmes as Jonas' mother
Taylor Swift as Rosemary
Cameron Monaghan as Asher
Emma Tremblay as Lily
Irina Miccoli as Fiona's mother
Jordan Nicholas Smal as Gabriel (3 months old)
Saige Fernandes as Gabriel (6 months old)
Alexander and James Jillings as Gabriel (12 months old)

Review by Stephen M.

Based on the best selling novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver is a haunting tale of a futuristic society living without the annoyances of such things as war, famine, sickness and yes, feelings.  Adhering to the idea of "sameness", each person is assigned a job as they reach 16 years of age until they are released to "elsewhere."  The story focuses on Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) whose job only comes up once a lifetime as the Receiver of Memory.  The title of the job is exactly as it sounds, he receives memories from the Giver (or the current Receiver of Memory) played by Jeff Bridges of memories of a society long forgotten, things banned due to their potential dangers like snow, and love.

I was fortunate enough to read the book a few years ago, and when I saw the trailer, was turned off a little by what I perceived as the filmmaker's twisting the story to be more sci fi then it should be as well as making this more into a love story than what I had read in the book.  While those elements are in the movie, thankfully they're not big parts of the movie.  At the same time, while there are many parts covered in the book, as with any book adaptation, there are definitely pieces you can feel are missing if you had read the book.  Especially with the ending there is a bit less ambiguity than there is from the book which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you look at it.

In the film, we have several relative newcomers, at least to me, in the lead role of Jonah as well as Odeya Rush as Fiona (Jonah's "stirring" interest) and even Taylor Swift as Rosemary (a former Reciever of Memories).  While Brenton Thwaites gets most of the screen time along with Jeff Bridges, they all do an adequate job in bringing their characters to life from the book.  I particularly enjoyed the scene when Brenton plays with baby Gabriel getting him to smile.  Jeff Bridges as well as Meryl Streep (The Chief Elder) are good in their roles.  While Katie Holmes plays an emotionless mother to Jonah quite well, given their society's focus on using words with meaning, again, doing away with "love."

Overall, while I enjoyed the film, your money is better spent elsewhere.  Catch this one on DVD or Netflix as the film fails to fully capture the thought provoking novel's captivating and moving tale of a dystopian society disguised as utopia.  The movie fails to move me as the novel did, translating poorly over to the big screen.  Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges at the film premiere in New York said this movie took ten years to bring to the big screen since Jeff first approached Lois about it.  Perhaps it could have used a few more years of seasoning.  In the meantime, read the book and wait for it to be released on DVD rental or Netflix.


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