Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes
Release date: TODAY!
Pretty much all of us have read The Giver by Lois Lowry at some point in our lives. I read it in the eighth grade and loved it so much that I convinced my teacher to give me extra credit for reading the two companion novels (Gathering Blue and Messenger) and writing a report about them. I loved all three books. Now there is a fourth book, Son, completing what is now called the "Giver Quartet." I have yet to read Son, but it's very high on my TBR pile right now.
The movie adaptation of The Giver have been in the works for years now, but Jeff Bridges has finally succeeded in getting it made, with himself in the title character's role. When the trailer came out several months ago, there was a lot of doubt and suspicion, and I completely admit to being among the naysayers.
I was wrong.
I had the opportunity to see a pre-screening of the movie in June, and I obviously went in with very low expectations. I was so pleasantly surprised once the movie was over. Yes, a few things had changed, but everything I had really loved about the book was there, present in the movie. So let's just talk about those changes for a moment.
First of all, one of the biggest points of contention about the trailer among fans of the book was that the first trailer was all in color. By now, most people know that in the book, people don't see colors; The main character Jonas, however, begins to see color throughout the book. Fear not, book fans! The movie begins in black and white and the introduction of color happens gradually until everything is gloriously warm and rich with color.
Also scrutinized is the aging up of Jonas and his peers. In the book, they are around 12 years old, while in the movie, they are around 16. In all honesty, I really didn't feel like this detracted anything from the storyline. Everything that happens makes just as much sense to a 16-year-old as it would to a 12-year-old.
The romance aspect. Possibly one of the biggest outcries from fans. "The character is older," they said, "so they'll try to throw a bunch of romance into the movie!" While it is possibly true that because Jonas is 16, his feelings for his friend Fiona may be played up a bit more, it is still not the most important plot points. I even felt that that certain things in the story (such as the stirrings), made more sense with a little bit of age and a crush.
Beyond all of these points, the story is just well-played. It's been a BIG year for Brenton Thwaites. Maleficent was a maistream hit, Oculus was a well-reviewed horror film, and The Signal has been getting tons of buzz in the indie crowd. With The Giver, I expect his star to continue rising! Jeff Bridges makes a great Giver, though I may be biased (I LOVE Jeff Bridges.) Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes play Jonas's parents, and Holmes's performance may not be the most nuanced, but Skarsgard is great as Jonas's father. And Meryl Streep is so fabulous as the Chief Elder that Lois Lowry herself expressed a desire to go back and rewrite The Giver to make the character more like Meryl Streep's portrayal of her.
There were, of course, a couple of things I didn't care for. The hovercraft/drones are still ridiculous, especially at the end. And Cameron Monaghan's performance as Jonas's friend Asher seems a little over-the-top, especially for someone who is meant to feel few emotions. Worst of all is Taylor Swift's performance as Rosemary. She is only present in about five minutes total of the film, yet she still managed to be my least favorite part of the entire movie.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film, MUCH more than I thought I would. If you're still on the fence about seeing it, I would encourage you to give it a chance!
Rating: 4/5 stars
Let me know in the comments below if you saw/plan on seeing The Giver, and what you thought of it!