Monday, August 11, 2014

“The Giver”– Movie Review



This week, The New York Times Film Club invited its members to attend the New York City premiere of the new science-fiction drama, “The Giver”, based on the award-winning, best-selling young adult novel of the same name by Lois Lowry; it stars Jeff Bridges (who also co-produced) and Meryl Streep.


In a futuristic society where citizens have no memories after an apocalypse, a young man is given the duty to learn all about the past so he can help guide the citizens of this new community – but once he discovers the secrets from their history, his life and the life of those close to him are endangered.



In the re-populated society that follows an event called The Ruin, the survivors live in a dystopia that they are led to believe is more of a utopia.  People here are not allowed to have emotions or memories of occurrences prior to The Ruin; the good news – if you can call it that – is the fact that The Elders, a collection of older citizens who run the community, make sure that everyone is clothed, sheltered, fed and employed.  The only problem is that no one has any choice in the matter – The Elders are the lone body responsible for making those decisions.   

When he comes of age, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is specially chosen by The Chief Elder (Streep) to assume a job known simply as The Receiver; he must study under The Giver (Bridges), who will impart knowledge and memories to Jonas about the past.  All of the history of the time before The Ruin will become known to Jonas, but he is not allowed to share this information with anyone else.  The purpose of him learning about it in the first place is to be able to ultimately assume the role of The Giver when he matures; in doing so, he will eventually be tasked of using the understanding of the past to share wisdom he has learned with the citizens of this new community in order to advise them. 

Jonas does not fit well into this unusual occupation – something that his parents (Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes) as well as his childhood friends Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush) are quick to suspect when they start noticing substantial personality changes.  When Jonas learns about a failed attempt at training Rosemary (Taylor Swift) as a new Receiver a decade ago, he has reason to believe that he may be imperiled.  After Jonas manages to escape to an area known as The Boundary of Memories, he tries to make it to the next region, where all of the memories of the past will be revealed to the citizens of his community.  But after The Chief Elder learns of his plan, will she be able to stop him before everyone in this society becomes informed of the history behind their culture? 


In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit to never having read the novel on which this film is based (nor do I even recall hearing of it before getting the invitation to this screening).  While I did overhear other members of the audience heaping some praise on “The Giver”, I got the impression that they might have been familiar with the movie’s source material; if you read the book, you might like the adaptation – however, if, like me, you are unfamiliar with this particular literary work, then it’s quite possible (if not likely) that you’ll be left a bit dissatisfied with the film version. 

Although the story of “The Giver” could easily be dismissed as a new-age Orwellian drama that should be popular with the crowd that gave “The Hunger Games” so much success, it at least has to be given credit for trying to spread its message of humanity and individualism to teenagers willing to listen.  Unfortunately, putting such a story on the screen is a bit of a challenge to say the least; it is rather difficult for actors to portray characters that have no emotion since by their very job description, actors are supposed to emote.  The sum total of “The Giver” is a muddled mess of ideas that are never fully explained, much less realized. 

A few unusual notes about this premiere that I thought were worthy of inclusion in this review:  Prior to the viewing, the audience in the theater was treated to a live-video streaming from right outside the theater, which featured the red carpet interviews with the stars.  Things took something of a strange turn when Jeff Bridges was interviewed because he alluded his friend Robin Williams, which caused him to burst into tears; in this awkward moment, the interviewer was forced to explain to the everyone viewing that it had been reported earlier that Robin Williams had died.  Audible gasps were heard from the audience, as this was clearly the first everyone was learning of the incident.  Right before the movie was shown, the musical group One Republic appeared live in the theater and performed their song, “Ordinary Human”, which can be heard during the end titles of “The Giver”. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!