Movie Review: ‘The Giver’ Hits Highs and Lows

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Preston Barta // Film Critic

THE GIVER | 94 min. | Rated PG-13 | Director: Phillip Noyce | Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander SkarsgårdKatie HolmesOdeya RushCameron MonaghanEmma Tremblay and Taylor Swift

Rating: 2.5/4

giver_ver9Based on Lois Lowry‘s hugely popular novel (that everyone either read in high school or saw on the shelf in the library), THE GIVER follows a young boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) who is chosen to learn from an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) about true pain and pleasure in a world where there hardly is any.

Jeff Bridges has been trying to get this story to the big screen for over 20 years, and it’s a pity that it took as long as it did, as comparisons to the likes of DIVERGENT and THE HUNGER GAMES are inevitable (even though the book was written long before the writers of those other popular young adult book series touched pen to paper). Watching the film, it immediately feels derivative of those other science fiction adaptations: people are divided into a class system, there is a chosen one to change the way of the world, a love story, etc. Yet, while the foundation feels familiar, it’s in the details that this particular story feels fresh and interesting.

One of the most salient things about the movie is that it starts out entirely in black-and-white, which may throw some audiences for a loop, but it adds a great deal of fascinating depth and perspective. We are meant to see the world as the people of the community do – a world without differences and judgement. Another cool feature is how the film makes the small things in life seem big again. I bet you can’t remember that first time you saw a tree or the sky. Of course you don’t; we were all babies then. THE GIVER causes us to reflect and re-experience things such as a mother’s love, death, pain, and true happiness, and it’s pretty neat. And lastly, this film clocks in at an hour-and-a-half. It cuts to the chase and keeps things moving. Thankfully.

So, where does it go wrong? Apart from the visuals and certain story details, the remainder is merely average. The cast (besides Bridges) mainly seems to be going through the motions, giving the type of lifeless performances that comes with the territory (think of a bunch of K-Stews). There are so many interesting places that the film could go with a story like this; however, too bad it never really ventures too far beyond the most obvious and expected places.

Overall, it’s a hit-and-miss film. It offers more entertainment and heart compared to last weekend’s releases, but it’s no GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It’s a solid film to watch if you’re looking to kill 90 minutes, or if you’re a fan of the book and want to see where they deviated.

THE GIVER opens tonight at 8 p.m.

Check out our Fresh Fiction interview with star Brenton Thwaites

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.