In 1993, author Lois Lowry published “The Giver,” a book about a society with no free will and the individuals who have access to the memories of the past. For years, Jeff Bridges had wanted to make this movie, and he even wanted his father Lloyd Bridges to play the titular character. However there were several falling-outs between Bridges and the studios that had owned the rights to the book that prevented the movie from being made. But alas, after over two decades of negotiating and jumping from place to place, Bridges has finally brought this story to the big screen. As someone who never read the award-winning book, I wasn’t particularly that excited for this movie. Even with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep as two of the main characters, there was something about this movie that just didn’t fully grab me the way previous young-adult book adaptations have before. Having now seen the film, I can honestly say that, like many other book to film adaptations that have come out this year, I was pleasantly surprised with “The Giver.”
Jeff Bridges was at his wisest and his “dudiest” here as the titular character. The performance overall was engaging to watch and overall was just a fascinating character to learn about in general. Meryl Streep, though in a hippie-esque wig, was also really good as the leader of the Elders in the community. I liked how menacing her character could be while not showing that much emotion. Think of her as the Hal 3000 but with the face of Meryl Streep, more emotion, and the hairdo of Tommy Chong. However these guys weren’t quite as impressive as their younger co-stars, in my eyes.
Brenton Thwaites pulls off a solid breakout-esque performance as Jonas, being a really likable guy and a pretty good actor as well. Same goes for Odeya Rush, though she isn’t as developed as she should have been in my opinion. Even Taylor Swift was pretty good in the movie, though she was only in it for about 10 minutes or so. Now with every solid set of actors, there’s bound to be a couple who don’t really shine as brightly as the others. In the case of this movie, there were two performances that did just that, which is upsetting considering how much talent they have in general.
Alexander Skarsgard I thought was fine in general, but he wasn’t particularly memorable in the slightest and was just reading his lines and not getting lost in his character. And then, there was Katie Holmes’ mediocre performance. It’s not that the character was written poorly, because she actually might have been somewhat interesting; It’s just that Holmes brought nothing to this performance and just made me somewhat cringe every time she was talking. It kind of reminded me of Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance in “Terminator Salvation,” in which they were just there to be a snooty supporter of someone. Overall, every performance (aside from Holmes) was actually pretty good, which is probably thanks to the work from director Phillip Noyce.
The only other Phillip Noyce directed film I have seen was the 2010 Angelina Jolie flick “Salt,” which I particularly wasn’t a fan of. However, the direction in that film I will admit was pretty solid. Noyce definitely shows he understands the craft here, and through that helps to tell an interesting story that so many around the world have only been able to imagine in their heads. What I admired the most about his direction is how he used color in this movie. Staying true to the book, (from what I’ve heard) the first 20 or so minutes of this movie, aside from a few little shots here and there, are entirely in black and white. Once Jonas sees these memories for the first time, the colors from them feel more vibrant and give off the illusion that we as an audience are too experiencing colors for the first time. The funny thing about that is that once the film fully transitions into color, the community and everything that isn’t in a memory looks grey and a bit muted. This, to me, was Noyce’s representation of the bland and bleak world that Jonas lived in all his life, which made me admire his direction even more.
Now as for the other things I didn’t care for in this movie, other than Katie Holmes, is the fact that the beginning didn’t grab me and the ending was pretty rushed. I thought the beginning of this movie was a little too generic for my liking and it didn’t really suck me in the way I wanted it to. It was when Meryl Streep first appears, that the movie really started to peak my interest. As for the ending, this huge climax happens that has the audience on the edge of their seats, and then there’s literally one minute of “resolution” before the credits start rolling. That might have been setting up for a sequel, but honestly I don’t care. It’s the type of ending that makes us audience members longing for just 5 more minutes in this world that we’ve already spent over 90 minutes in. Putting those problems aside, this as a whole is a pretty solid movie.
The performances are solid, the story kept my attention, and the direction/use of color here is pretty great. Judging from what I’ve been told from those who have read the book and have seen the movie, this is a pretty faithful adaptation despite some changes here and there. The movie itself might be flawed, but the positives outweigh the negatives, which gives me pleasure to recommend this to people. While films like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Divergent” were better made films, “The Giver” managed to hold its own and even give people something to see as the summer is winding down. Overall, “The Giver” got the job done in what it was trying to do, and in return gave me an entertaining movie that I can happily recommend.