Release Date: August 15, 2014 (USA)
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes
Director: Phillip Noyce
Studio: Walden Media
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Genre(s): Supernatural, Romance, Drama
Based On: The Giver by Lois Lowry
As I sat in the theater, snow caps in one hand and a coke in the other, my hopes were tentatively high. Going in I knew they had changed the ages of the main characters. No big deal, artistic license, and connection to the current teen/twenty-somethings who are going to see it, and all. Still, since so many book to movie transitions have been going fairly well these days, I had hopes.
I wish I hadn’t had any hopes.
The movie was beautifully shot in black and white with a wonderful slow transition to color, much like how Jonas would have experienced it. But that’s where everything started falling short for me. I know not every detail from the book is going to make it in the final cut, and they have to add somethings in to spice it up and make it attractive, but you don’t take out the main parts the book revolves around! In the book, Jonas has light eyes. This is a big deal considering everyone else in the community, sans The Giver and Gabe, have dark eyes. In the movie, it’s a special birthmark. In the book, Jonas first see the color red through an apple. In the movie, it’s Fiona’s hair. Pretty big difference, but it sets up what the writers and director wanted in the end.
The dynamic of the three friends is something that is questionable from the start. Friends forever. No jealous among the two boys and single girl because, hey, accuracy of language and they can’t feel that emotion due to the utopia. And yet you get that strange vibe that Asher is getting jealous of Jonas and Fiona. How can he feel that emotion you ask? Beats me.
The movie as a whole moves rather quickly. Flipping through time as if it was a book you were casually interested. It made no note of any real time passage, as major milestones were mentioned once and then never again for the following year when they would have occurred. The only shift in times you get are the child looking slightly older, and more memories. Granted in a utopia, you don’t really get to have seasons so, I can’t fault them too much on that.
The acting was good. I can’t say great for every person, but it was good, believable. Meryl Streep as Chief Elder kinda threw me off. As the Elder in a society that has no memories outside of the Memory Keeper, how did she know so much about the past? And as a people with no strong emotions, why did she show them and have accurate knowledge of them? Jeff Bridges is wonderful, as usual. He plays the tortured soul well. The star of the movie, Brenton Thwaites is great at playing the curious kid who learns too much too quickly. Plus, he isn’t bad to look at.
I love the book dearly, and do hope that if people choose to go see this, it’ll drive them to the book. Part of what makes the book so great is Jonas’ young age. The ability to make those choices so young and be willing to sacrifice everything for it; that’s what makes it so amazing. The main details in the book should have, in my opinion, been kept for the movie. The light eyes, the red apple, Jonas’ dad bringing Gabe, the baby, home, the ceremony and where everyone sat, and the actual assignments. Overall, it wasn’t the worst book to movie adaptation I’ve ever sat through. And the end of the movie was exactly like the book, which is rather redeeming.