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Review: The Giver

The Giver
08.14.2014
5 10

PLOT: In a dystopian future world, young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen by his community to be the new Receiver of Memory. His new mentor will be the previous Receiver – now technically “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges) who introduces him to thoughts, feelings and sensations beyond his wildest dreams.

REVIEW: THE GIVER can’t help but feel awfully familiar in the wake of so many dystopian teen sci-fi yarns. THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT are both slicker, sexier takes on essentially the same material, but it probably needs to be remembered that THE GIVER was actually around long before either franchise, with it being based on the acclaimed 1993 novel. So really, those films are derivative of this rather than the other way around.

Coming from The Weinstein Company, and packed with star power (including producer-star Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep) and helmed by a sophisticated director, Philip Noyce, one can’t help but expect THE GIVER to be a cut above regular teen fare. While there are elements of THE GIVER that certainly are, this can’t help but feel stiff and curiously lacking in energy, with its morose tone and overly earnest (re: bland) hero.

Brenton Thwaites is apparently a significantly older Jonas than in the books, with the twenty-five year-old actor playing a sixteen-year-old. Thwaites and the rest of the teen actors suffer in comparison to the veteran pros they act opposite of. Given that the movie is short on action (this is remarkably dialogue-driven for a teen flick) a hero that’s easy to invest in is a necessity, but Thwaites is short on presence, especially compared to the teen heroines we’ve been somewhat spoiled by. That said, all the blame can’t be laid at Thwaites feet. In the book Jonas was eleven, and one can’t help but think the story would work better if the age had been left intact.

The film’s pace is also pretty sluggish, and given how many similar films we’ve seen, it’s hard to be too horrified or intrigued by this dystopian depiction of the future. Philip Noyce is a strong director, but his talents are mostly wasted here. The only really original choice was to start the film in black and white and gradually add color as Jonas is awakened to its perception by The Giver. Still, it’s weird that scenes Jonas doesn’t appear in are then filmed in color, if no one else but he and The Giver can perceive it.

THE GIVER’s only real strength is Jeff Bridges as the titular character. Bridges makes pretty much anything palatable, and his natural compassion (mixed with a little orneriness) suits the part. By comparison, Meryl Streep is wasted as the nominal antagonist. This feels like little more than a cameo, and she seems to have only been added for marquee value. Even stranger is the lack of Taylor Swift, who’s prominently featured in all the ads but it’s really only a minor cameo.

The fact is - if you grew up reading THE GIVER you’ll probably appreciate the movie more than I ever could. To me, it feels too similar to the other teen-driven franchises out there, with the handicap that the hero isn’t especially appealing. This is probably good, introductory dystopian sci-fi for (very) young viewers, but otherwise this is one you can safely skip.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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