Review: ‘The Giver’ gives nothing but a mediocre production

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Weinstein Company

With its beloved plot and unique philosophical meaning, “The Giver” has the potential to be an extraordinary film. However, when director Phillip Noyce decided to deviate from the novel and add more Hollywood flare, the film lost touch with its literary roots.

The story, based on Lois Lowry’s 1993 children’s novel of the same name, is set in a supposed utopia following the events of a great war. In order to keep another war from happening, the society elects to remove all memories of the past from its citizens. This also removes the people’s emotions and their ability to see color.

The protagonist, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), is given the task of becoming the “Receiver of Memory,” the only person in the society to remember the events previous to the utopia. He receives these memories from the previous receiver, now called “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges).

As Jonas regains his memories, he begins to realize that the practice of “releasing” someone, the ritual performed when someone is no longer needed in the society, is actually death by lethal injection. With this new understanding, Jonas takes it upon himself to restore the community by bringing back its memories.

Although the general plot of the movie may work for a novel, the concept does not transpose into film very well. The movie begins in black and white and slowly begins to change into full color as the plot progresses. However, this is not a consistent change. Whenever a perspective switches to a supporting character, the film is once again in black and white. This happens quite frequently and often breaks the viewer’s attention from the action of the film.

While the lack of emotion does provide a good point of contrast for the film’s setting, it does not flow well with the scripting of the film. In the society, the citizens are encouraged to use “precise language.” Essentially, this means that the actors put on an almost robotic, monotone voice. However, this does not remain consistent either. In one scene, characters may seem completely emotionless and robotic, yet in the next, they may break that monotony and show emotion. The scripting produces awkward lines that sounds unnatural, leaving the audience dissatisfied.

With veteran actors like Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, the film features some amazing work. While the lack of emotion does take away from the potential acting of some of the less known actors, the more established actors are still able to provide a great experience. Bridges, one of the few characters that has the ability to display emotion, displays his great acting by drawing the audience in. You can feel his pain and loss as if it is real to him. This is also shown in the acting of Streep. While her character does not display emotion, the fiery stubbornness behind her acting and stature help her to effectively establish her character. However, even though the film features great acting from these two, it is not enough to make the film worthwhile.

The film also includes a romance between Jonas and his longtime friend Fiona (Odeya Rush). While this may make the movie more exciting and a little more appealing to Hollywood executives, the romance does not fit well with the premise of the movie. Due to the lack of emotion behind the scripting, the characters do show any romantic tendencies. The characters show no signs of mutual love, and romance comes off as unsettling at best.

Worst of all, this movie runs at a very slow pace. The majority of the 97-minute movie is spent watching Jonas train and learn about the past. While this is entertaining, it does get old very quickly. The actual action and thrill of the movie really only takes place in the last 15-20 minutes of the film. While the build up is necessary for the thrilling end, it takes too much time to get the movie off the ground and where it needs to be.

Unfortunately, these downsides take away from the marvelous concept that the film is trying to show. Instead of focusing on the meaning and idea that the film should present, the movie is far too focused on the artistic aspects. While the film does carry a good message, it is lost behind the awkward camera angles and scripting inconsistencies.

Our Grade: C
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep