Movie Review: “The Giver”

   The Giver is a 2014 American science-fiction film directed by Phillip Noyce. Most recently known for directing the film, Salt. It is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Lois Lowry. The film stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift.

   Some notable names are in that list. Which likely ensures The Giver will be a box-office success, along with the high-level of popularity from the book itself. The film received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics.

    I can’t really say why I decided to see The Giver. I didn’t make any plans to do this, but basically, my older brothers were visiting, and so we chose this film over Expendables 3 and Into the Storm. (I have already seen and reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.) I can’t say that I was necessarily excited for the film. The trailers definitely played up similar elements to other young-adult films that have been released in recent months. Which is one of the criticisms a lot pointed out about the film. Personally, from my side of things, I didn’t think it borrowed many elements, and although I haven’t read the book, my older brother comments that it carries a lot of the important elements.

   The setting is a utopian society where after a big war, “the community” decided to take away feelings such as love and anger, as well as get rid of colors and different races. Everything is meant to be organized and robotic, with everything decided for them, including the fact that when a child turns 16, they are assigned a job. This is different for the lead protagonist, a boy named Jonas who is selected to become the Receiver of Memory. They keep the memories of the past in-order to have insight about different conflicts.

    Similar to Equilibrium, the film works to bring elements sameness into fruition through bland and dreary minimalist cinematography. In other-words, there’s a lot of gray to symbolize sameness, and splashes of color to symbolize emotion coming out.

    The Giver does this well.

    We have seen this before, I mean, we’ll be seeing a similar one from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For later this month, but that’s pulling at straws. It is definitely a familiar element, however. A good one though, and I think that it is done mostly well. I like seeing filmmakers try to enhance their story through non-conventional means.

   The acting is in capable hands with various known actors reeling themselves into it. (Bridges and Streep) I wouldn’t say that Meryl Streep was tremendous in this film, but I really liked Jeff Bridges. He was easily the best actor throughout the whole film. During the last half of the film, there is a speech with Bridges that I really enjoyed.

    Aside from the moments with him, I will say that certain themes can come off as bland and/or dull at times. That’s the point, but even if it’s intentional, it doesn’t make the elements any less dull. I think there were more opportunities for humor. Or at the least, more visually striking depictions of how different it has become. A scene with Jonas’ father and an infant really shows the potential they had for dark-humor.

    I would’ve loved for them to dig deeper. A run-time of 94 minutes means they had plenty of time to expand on their concepts. More scenes with Jonas and The Giver could have been entertaining. There is a limitless amount of potential with what they could have done. If they would have made it longer, I would have liked more scenes. There’s far too many young-adult films that head over in the two-hour department without means for it, but I feel like this one would’ve had the material to justify it.

    In conclusion, while I don’t think this film achieves the emotional successes that it could have, or even reaches its potential, however, it has far more ambition than most of the other novel adaptations that have been coming out lately. Still, with flickers of brilliance from Jeff Bridges, strong visual-styles, and a few cool moments, The Giver succeeds more than it fails.

Thanks for reading…

Rating: Above Average

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