Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Giver

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Hack comedians all over the world took a second away from their Taco Bell/Diarrhea gags and 4-hour erection jokes to declare the sequel should be called The Taker.

The Giver – 3 out of 5

So, it seems The Giver is based on a book of the same name by Lois Lowry that came out in 1993.  It was one of those tween dystopian novels that are all the rage now but came out before they were the rage (so, can I say it is the grandfather of the subgenre?).  The book is quite acclaimed and loved by a lot of people and it has been fought to get adapted into a film for nearly two decades—by a man in the film, no less.  It’s not really surprising that since Twilight and The Hunger Games proved that adapting young adult novels into films—especially when they are about future worlds that are suppose to be perfect but are covering up all kinds of corruption and suppressing people’s desire to be free—basically results in the studio drowning in money, it’s no wonder it was easier to get The Giver made today than it was years ago.

Sure it's a screencap from the film but it also looks like it was taken from a Goo Goo
Dolls video.
Everything Bridges does just looks cool.
The world is a different place.  War, worry, disease, and suffering are all gone but it comes at a price.  The price is forgetting all that came before…with the exception of one; The Giver (Jeff Bridges).  When young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) sees his day where he can be assigned a duty to the community, he finds that the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) has elected him to become the Receiver of Memory.  His time with The Giver shows him the world that once existed.  A world with joy and sorrow, fear and sadness, hope and love, and one that was an all around melting pot of ethnicity and culture.  This breeds rebellion in Jonas and he longs to see the world beyond where the community ends; beyond the cliff’s edge…a place called “The Elsewhere.”  As the memories from The Giver are…um…given to Jonas, he learns that he is in love with his friend Fiona (Odeya Rush), finds out that The Giver had once failed another Receiver of Memory (Taylor Swift), and that their utopia hides a terrible and deadly secret.  Soon, Jonas becomes hunted by the Chief Elder and he is forced to flee and now must fight to return the lost memories of his people back to them.

Hopefully they don't get the memory back of that "Because I'm Happy" song.

Well, hologram Streep is way less creepy than that
CGI Jeff Bridges from the Tron film.
Despite the fact I never read the book, the trailer sold me on this one and I thought it looked pretty damn interesting.  I was very excited to sit down with this one because it looked a lot more thought out than other tween dystopia films (probably because this is one of them that set the standard) and it looked like it wasn’t going to bow down to the tired trope of the two doughy-eyed main characters that fall in love without really knowing anything about each other beyond the fact they are physically attracted to them. Not to mention that powerhouse actors like Bridges and Streep were in it and that only adds to my interest level.  However, the end product just didn’t feel as emotional or powerful as it could have been.

One of her memories that her character had returned to her was being married
to a guy who was the poster boy to a religion made up by a bad science fiction author.
Visually, The Giver looks fantastic.  The stark grayscale that we see while Jonas is living a life under a metaphoric umbrella compared to the vivid color he sees once The Giver opens up his mind to the past may draw parallels to the film Pleasantville but it still worked incredibly well for the story that the film has.  Not to mention the designs used for this utopian society are pretty neat to look at, as well.  The designs made the world come to life and made it feel legitimate and authentic.  It’s also nice to see a dystopian society that comes under the guise of a utopia.  It’s a refreshing change from the usual broken down buildings and junk that we see in the likes of Divergent and The Hunger Games (not that I’m calling those movies “junk,” fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games, I'm just talking about the sets and the dilapidated style of future they show).

This looks like an album cover to a Christian rock band...add in a cross on the horizon
and BOOM!
Additionally, the performances in the film were great.  Naturally, Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges were amazing—but I knew that going into the film.  You could see the weight of each characters' responsibility in both actors and it added to the level of authenticity the film was putting off.  Both Streep and Bridges were playing opposite sides of the same coin and each were pulling in the direction of what they felt was good for the community and the people, and they performed this part amazingly well.

He just realized how the rug really tied the room together.
Even some of the smaller parts were done well and made the fictional world the film exists in seem real.  For example, Katie Holmes and Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd play Jonas’ parents and both played their parts exceptionally great—especially Holmes…whose time around Scientology might have helped with the emotionless zombie she was playing.  I also really enjoyed Odeya Rush as Fiona and seeing her journey of self-discovery as Jonas opens her eyes to all the things their utopia denies them was very interesting.  And I really enjoyed Shameless’ Cameron Monoghan as Jonas’ friend Asher who is forced to hunt Jonas down while he is passed the borders of their community.  Finally, I was a little taken back by how decent Taylor Swift was in her short role. 

I'm not going to say anything mean about Swift because I don't want to be a hater
that hates, hates, hates, hates, hates.
In order to make this film work, you needed the right actor for Jonas and, for the most part, I think the production made the correct bet on the right horse with Brenton Thwaites.  Despite having a short career, I’ve dug Thwaites performances in both good movies he’s been in and bad ones.  Overall, I think Thwaites really hit the right marks with Jonas and really showcased the confusion, fear, and hope he experienced as the Receiver of Memory and watching him try to come to grips with the reality behind the sterilized paradise he lives in and discovering all that his people lost in order to get it was performed wonderfully from him.  In fact, the visuals and the performances aren’t the issues this film had and what kept me from really getting into it the way I wanted.

I'm pretty certain that Meryl Streep wins awards for eating cereal now.
The only real problem I had with the film was the story just didn’t pack the emotional and dramatic punch it should have had.  With the story the way it is, the realization of the reality they live in when characters like Jonas and Fiona learn the truth should have come out of the TV screen like a fist and knock my teeth out with emotion and, as the internet says, hit me right in the feels.  But due to what feels like Jonas learning the truth too quickly and characters like Fiona and Asher coming to terms with Jonas’ actions and forgotten memories returned and them being too quick to accept these revelations, the unveiling of what the utopia is really about doesn’t have the weight and gravity it should.  Not to mention that the ending is pretty lackluster and, according to what I’ve read on the internet, lacks the ambiguity that the book has.

Don't give me that look...I still liked the movie.
In all honesty, this is the only complaint I have about the film.  Besides that, I actually enjoyed The Giver.  Had the running time been slightly longer and many elements of Jonas’ journey or the doomed first Receiver of Memory been feathered out slightly more, the film might have been a lot stronger and infinitely more dramatic.  As it stands, it’s a decent film that tells an interesting story but it just doesn’t do much to stand out.


  1. I'll be perfectly honest with you Ron. I love Meryl Streep, but she doesn;t always hit the right notes in every movie she makes. Did you see that piece of shit August: Osage County? She was a cartoon throughout with Harry Styles hair.

    1. I have not seen Osage County. She was no bueno in it, eh?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I thought Meryl was insufferable in Osage County. Besides being annoying as hell, her character is a vulgar, offensive and boorish twat who barely gets along with anyone. Even going as far as calling the daughter whose been trying to help her get better ugly. How are we supposed to sympathize or care for this character when she can't even show remorse or love? Julia "Cunt Face" Roberts is in this movie, and she's far more natural in her role than Meryl, which is not a good sign since you and I hate her. Also in this movie is the very talented Benedict Cumberbatch, who is an actor who is impossible to be miscast, Chris Cooper, a man who has awesomeness come out of his mouth every time he talks, and many others. I thought this movie, however, was a severe letdown.

    Seriously though, give it a watch and write a review if you want.


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