Movie Review: The Giver

If Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning book “The Giver” ever needed to be brought back to social consciousness, now would be the time.

With events in Ferguson, Mo. during a time in history when social media makes ignorance hard to achieve, “The Giver,” movie and book both, resonate with a clear message: “If you see it, you have the responsibility to fix it — it is your problem.”

While sitting in the theater, Director Phillip Noyce’s rendition of the 1993 book, which sold more than 10 million copies, brings back more middle school memories than one would like to remember.

But coming of age gains power in the film.

In a dystopian society disguised as utopia, members are saluted for sameness. The sameness infiltrates all minds of the society where there are rules, like using exact language and never lying. Everyone is assigned to a family as a child. All underweight babies are “sent to elsewhere,” a pleasant term to mask euthanization. The elders of the community are always watching. When a child comes of age, they are assigned to a job.

In the black and white world with no emotions, all memory of a pre-war time is erased except for in the mind of one man: The Giver, holder of all memories.

The 97-minute film leaves audience members feeling reminiscent of their own times growing up, whether it be a reminder of Lowry’s book or a testament to the movies storytelling.

What departs with moviegoers most, however, is a reminder of life — the moments we so often forget among social media, crazy work schedules, constant advertisements or hours of homework.

The first leaves changing color in September, the feeling of cold snow on eyelashes or the simple buzz felt the moment after a good laugh with friends and drinks — the movie imparts that these are important, especially in conjunction with life’s harder moments of pain or loss, war and love.

Although major changes from the book, like main character Jonas’ age, sculpt the story differently, the core messages of Lowry’s work remain.

Jeff Bridges, plays a tender but worn and apprehensive Giver, and Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder is as poignant as expected. Their characters stir you and create the film’s conflict between memory and order.

The thriller is sure to touch the next generation, now coming of age. However, true followers of the book may get caught off guard by the movie’s, sometimes, planned and predictable quality.

In a world of similarly themed dystopian movies like “Divergent” or “The Hunger Games,” “The Giver” is less violent and abrasive, although its images of memory leave you as torn as Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites.

While becoming entranced by the orderly society with it’s injections to stop “sexual stirrings,” “The Giver” feels disrupted by an appearance of Taylor Swift’s stardom despite good-enough acting.

Israeli actress Odeya Rush is strong and willing as Fiona, stealing any spolight given to Swift in the film, which is rated PG-13.

A part from the movie’s reminder of why utopian societies fail, the film’s artfully constructed images of sleigh rides, dances and elephants strengthen “The Giver,” through visualization and music, placed appropriately among its defense of the freedom of expression.

Despite being geared towards a younger audience, “The Giver” is a reminder, especially for a middle-aged audience that life is not stagnant, if only you just remember.

Score: 8.5

 

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