Movie Description: In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.
Book Synopsis: Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
I will admit that I was initially very worried about this movie. I know that the star power of Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård should have put me at ease, but the trailers seemed so bland and too futuristic when compared to the book that I was still freaking out. The title treatment also reminded me the alien TV show V, so that didn’t help. My skepticism didn’t abate when Lois Lowry herself, said:
I had seen Brenton Thwaites in Maleficent and wasn’t too impressed, though I think that had to do more with the dull role of the prince than his acting skills. (Sidenote: you can read my movie review of Maleficent and my post on villains.) In The Giver, however, he shines.
I had never heard of Odeya Rush before, but her portrayal of Fiona was captivating. I liked her character much more because of her acting than in the book. I thought she was kind of shallow in the original source material, but the movie also developed her more to serve as a viable love interest for Jonas. I despise the need to add romance to every YA story (book or movie), but it surprisingly didn’t bother me as much as I expected.
Another change that I assumed would ruin the movie was the aging of the characters from 12 to 16 (again to follow the YA dystopian trend), but I think it works very naturally. 12 and 16 were very pivotal years in my life (more so than 13 and 17) so seeing a 16-year old Jonas facing these dark themes resonated with me.
What was also really great was the larger scope of the movie that wasn’t shown in the book. The book is told from Jonas’ POV so a lot of behind the scenes in the Community went unseen in the reading experience, but the movie can easily switch from Jonas’ POV to the Chief Elder’s, who is played Meryl Streep.
The Chief Elder’s role (and tension between her and The Giver) was expanded for the movie. Understandable, since it’s Meryl Streep we’re talking about here, but the change was so seamless that for those who haven’t already read the book (or read the articles talking about the changes made), you would never have guessed it had ever been otherwise.
The style of the movie showed clear parallels to The Hunger Games (The Communities resemble the District logos and Capitol) and Divergent (The Graduation—”Ceremony of Twelve” in the book—looks like the Choosing Ceremony). Despite this, The Giver is unique in its own right as a movie. The main reason is the way they portrayed the memories. And, if anyone says The Giver is copying plot elements, remember it was published in 1993—years before either of the modern dystopian trilogies. I already wrote a post on how The Giver is responsible for the current trend of YA dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent.
Overall, I loved this movie and agree with Lois Lowry’s assessment (see image quote above).
And finally, for those of you who have already read the book and seen the movie, here is a good review on how faithful the film was to its source material (it has spoilers, so again, read and watch–in that order).
FYI, The Giver was inspired by the author’s father’s memory loss. Here’s another interesting interview with Lois Lowry. And here’s one where she more strictly talks about the page to screen adaptation.
Jeff Bridges originally intended his father to play The Giver, but his father died a few years later.
On a random note, the girl who plays Fiona looks like Anna Kendrick on the poster, but really resembles Mila Kunis in more ways than one.