Life in the Fast Lane

A TRIATHLETE'S MULTISPORT ADVENTURES, TRAVELS, RANDOM MUSINGS, AND CHRONICLES OF HER OTHERWISE ORDINARY LIFE

Review: The Giver

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Disclaimer: I'm taking a break from the previous #10DayChallenge posts in order to write this pseudo-review. I'll get back to that challenge soon!

Yesterday, I was able to watch The Giver, which was based on the novel of the same title published in 1993 by Lois Lowry.

Now, I don't know if I entered the movie theater with the correct frame of mind, so I may not have given the movie enough of a chance as I watched it.

You see, I've been a Giver fangirl ever since I first read it as a grade schooler. I had read the book at least twice before it became an assigned material for us to read in the 7th grade; by the time we had to submit a book report, I no longer had to read it along with my classmates in order to write about it. And years later (and many more re-reads since, together with the other books in the series, i.e. Gathering Blue, The Messenger, Son), it is still one of my all-time favorite books.

So when the lights dimmed and I, together with the rest of the moviegoers, was transported into the black and white world of Jonas' community, my expectations of the movie were so high, there's no word for it. (I bet that had I come up with such a word, I would've been scolded with, "Precision of language, please!")

Brenton Thwaites as Jonas and Odeya Rush as Fiona.

Perhaps 50% of the movie remains faithful to the book. The premise is pretty much intact: set in a far off post-apocalyptic future; having a coming-of-age theme, rude awakenings, questioning the system and the like.

I also enjoyed how the film brought to life many of the elements the book's readers had imagined all these years. I also loved how they treated (with such "vividness", if this word exists) the memories of humanity's distant past. I also had to applaud the cast for giving pretty solid performances: of course there's Meryl Streep as The Elder (she can do no wrong in my eyes), Katie Holmes as Jonas' mom (she was able to portray indifference and restrained emotions at the same time), Brenton Thwaites as Jonas (he delivered in terms of that transition from innocence to maturity), Odeya Rush as Fiona (the wide-eyed girl next door who stands by her — and Jonas' newfound — principles), and more.

Katie Holmes as Jonas' mother doing one of her classic looks throughout the film: disappointment, confusion, restraint, and indifference all at the same time.

However, the other 50% of it veered towards the opposite direction of the book, making it feel like it had to live up to Hollywood's checklist of items for young adult/dystopian films:
  • Love interest? Check.
  • Rebellion? Check.
  • Action scenes? Check.
  • Introducing a head honcho nemesis? Check.
  • Futuristic gadgets and gizmos? Check.
I couldn't help but compare it to The Hunger Games and Divergent in that, intentionally or not, there were so many aspects about The Giver that looked eerily similar: the big gathering in which the once young were now welcomed as adults and assigned a role/given a choice to make; how the unassuming protagonists suddenly take on huge responsibilities of saving the world as they know it; etcetera, etcetera. Also, they made Jonas older in the film (unlike in the book, where their roles are assigned in the Ceremony of Twelve), in keeping with what seems to be the comtemporary coming-of-age... well, age.

Jonas as the Receiver of Memories with Jeff Bridges as the Giver.

I don't know why there was this feeling of unease after watching the movie; as if I felt that the filmmakers had to live up to the hype associated with young adult/dystopian films these days; as if they had to play catch up.

When, really, the book had so many inherently rich themes that could have been expounded on much further.

But perhaps if I had seen the movie without knowing what the book was about, I would have enjoyed it. I would have compared it to The Hunger Games and Divergent, but I probably would have liked its seeming fresh take on rigidity, control, and "sameness" (to borrow Lowry's description of the community). I would have just appreciated it for what it was: an entertaining science fiction young adult film.

In a nutshell:
  • If you've read (and loved) the book, be prepared for so many changes. In fact, be prepared to be mildly to severely disappointed. If you end up not being disappointed, though, then that's great (and I say this with all honesty)!
  • If you haven't read the book and have no idea what it's about, you'll most likely enjoy it.
At the end of it all, though, I'm still glad that they were able to adapt one of my favorite books — it was still fun to see Jonas' world come to life.

In fact, I have to thank Jonas for taking us on an adventure of discovery, of growth, of appreciating humanity despite the chaos and disorder; to borrow from The Elder, "Thank you for your childhood."

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