All too often when a movie is adapted from a novel, especially one that is as popular and well-known as Lois Lowry’s “The Giver”, the resulting film is a letdown, both as a film as well as to the source material. But “The Giver”, based on Lowry’s book, does a better job than most when it comes to bringing pages to the big screen.
Set in the year 2048, the world has been divided into “communities”, perfect living arrangements devoid of color, emotions or other social aspects. When a young boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is taught to see and feel all the memories lost by a man known as The Giver (Jeff Bridges), the perfect community is threatened. Meryl Streep and Katies Holmes costar as Phillip Noyce directs.
Jeff Bridges spent nearly two decades trying to get Lowry’s novel made into a film, and originally envisioned his own father, Lloyd, playing the titular character. More than 20 years and 10 million copies sold, “The Giver” is finally a major Hollywood film, and the result is a mixed bag, however an interesting one.
The concept of a “perfect society” isn’t new, and technically this film is even less original because it is based off a book. However “The Giver” still manages to keep our interest by hinting at what used to be. Unlike “The Hunger Games”, these communities, also forged because of a great war, have no recollection of the old world, and know not that the government, led by Streep, is controlling and manipulating them. This makes us root for Jonas to overthrow the system even more.
Noyce directs the film beautifully, transitioning from black-and-white to small amounts of color as Jonas becomes more and more intelligent. He infuses The Giver’s memories with lively and colorful images that make us realize how gorgeous the world we live really is, and how awful it would be to lose it.
There are some tonal and pacing issues with the film, and they are certainly its biggest flaw. Towards the film’s climax, when the energy should be racing and our hearts pumping, it is actually the driest and slowest part of the film. There is no real suspense; any suspense that should be present is replaced with walking. A lot of walking.
Not every performance is also up-to-par, however that is not entirely the actors’ fault. Because this is a world with no emotion or true expression, many characters, especially Katie Holmes’s mother character, feel more like robots than human beings, and it is at times distracting from the film, whether loyal to the book or not.
If you loved Lowry’s novel, then “The Giver” won’t disappoint. It embodies everything that has made the book so popular, even if it does shy away from some of its deeper, thought-provoking ideas. From a standalone film perspective, the film is gorgeously shot and features a few interesting aspects, almost acting as modern social commentaries. I found myself generally entertained for a majority of the film, and that is more than I can say for most non-Harry Potter adaptions.
Critics Rating: 7/10