Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep & Katie Holmes
Time: 100 minutes
In 1993 Lois Lowry’s The Giver was released and became an incredibly popular and equally controversial children’s novel. I read The Giver for the first time at Central Middle School and have read it every 5 or so years since. I always wanted them to make a film version of the beloved story and after watching the movie Sunday night, I wish they hadn’t.
Making a film out of a beloved novel is an incredibly daunting task, it is rare that the film lives up to the novel, and even rarer that a film exceeds its literary roots. Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Goodfellas, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and Schindler’s List are all movies that are better than the books they were based off of. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have The Cat in the Hat, The Great Gatsby (both versions), and The Time Machine, all horrible films based off of great books. The Giver falls into neither category, but it is definitely closer to the latter than the former.
The movie struggles for a variety of reasons, but three rise to the top as the film’s biggest faults. First and foremost is the cast. None of the well-known actors bring their A game, and the unknowns actors do not give a performance worth remembering. Jeff Bridges who plays the giver tries very hard to portray a conflicted and depressed elder, but for some reason they give him an affected speech pattern which makes him sound like a stroke victim instead of a haunted all-knowing elder. Meryl Streep seems to be channeling her character from the Devil Wears Prada, but I was more afraid of her Miranda Priestly character than this role as the Chief Elder. The other characters are unknowns or have been in an HBO or Showtime series and don’t bring much to the table. Worst of all is Taylor Swift’s cameo as the Giver’s dead daughter Rosemary. She has very little screen time and serves as more of a distraction than anything else.
Second, the film does not give a proper backstory. There is no real explanation as to why the society was created the way it was, and it only hints at the horrible times that caused this way of life. With a run time of only 1 hour and 40 minutes they should have spent more time on setting the story up then showing off the cool CGI community.
Lastly, the film is far too short. Much of the film is wasted on an overly long action scene and not enough is spent on emotional buildup and important plot details. Most of what made the novel what it was, is quickly glossed over in this sped up film. Understanding that brevity is a virtue, it is not so in this case. The film feels like it is just trying to get to its dramatic ending, which due to the lack of buildup is not dramatic or fulfilling.
The Giver as a standalone movie might be bearable, but as an adaption of a literary masterpiece it is a disaster. It is rushed and crowded by bad acting, and useless CGI effects. I don’t think I would even recommend it as a rental.
Grade: D (Skip It)