Monday, August 18, 2014

Movie Review: "The Giver" (2014)

Movie"The Giver"
Director: Phillip Noyce
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
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In what appears to be a Utopian society, the public has sacrificed their emotions and individuality to live in peace and harmony. All of the aspects of their lives are planned, including where they work and who is in their family. Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is a young man who is about to be assigned his career. It turns out, he is very special and is assigned the job Receiver of Memories, a position that involves learning the history of everything, including the past, as well as advising The Elders. The previous Receiver, now dubbed The Giver (Jeff Bridges), opens Jonas’ mind to a world he never knew existed as he discovers his utopia is not everything it seems.

I'm sure Lois Lowry is mad as hell that even though her book was written "first," so many other movies based on books dealing with the same topics and themes came out before it. It just feels too little too late for this book-to-movie adaptation.

Now, as per usual, we must preface: we have not read the book, and always strive to treat books and movies as separate entities. For starring two of our favorite actors, we walked away from this movie extremely underwhelmed. We believe that it was too short, in many ways. For a film that has so many deep ideas that are interwoven, it doesn't seem to get anywhere prolific with a 94 minute screen time. The lack of development is where it suffers most. Because it is so short, it fails to give the characters involved any real depth to the point where we don't get emotionally invested in their plight. Rather than letting the back-story about their society as a whole unfold naturally, it quickly glosses over its concept through a blurb on the screen in the first 30 seconds of the movie. We as an audience never get a real feeling of the everyday lives of the people within their supposed utopia.

This film seems to focus a lot on a seemingly forced romance between Jonas and Fiona. In doing this, the entire movie trivializes the true power of the emotions we are supposed to feel by reducing it to no more than a teenage crush. For a story that focuses so much on emotional enlightenment, it simply isn't emotional or engaging enough to make us interested. Jonas' transformation as he discovers the knowledge of the past isn't drastic enough, either. A person who has never felt an emotion in their entire life would (we hope) have a greater reaction upon seeing their first gorgeous sunset, or hearing their first piece of music, or learning about love for the first time. However, Jonas' emotions seem muted and underwhelmed. We don't know if it's Brenton Thwaites as an actor or the script in general, but he seems to have far too much control over what little emotion he asserts during these should be dramatic revelations. Even the montages he sees in his mind of holding hands and dancing and puppies and general happiness seem like something lazily pulled from National Geographic with the intent of provoking something greater.

Beyond all of this, the set design looks fine, though it's rather simple since the story is focused on sameness and uniformity. Everything from the costumes to their housing units look pretty much the same and fit the story well. Meryl Streep gives another fine performance, but what else would you expect from her? Jeff Bridges seems to be the go-to Hollywood veteran for a grizzled, stoic old man these days, and while he is also great in his role as The Giver, it seemed like his audio was dubbed in order to give him a more gravely sounding voice in post-production. We noticed that the sync was off several times to the point of it being distracting. Also, it looked like he had marbles in his mouth throughout the entire movie, which was equally as puzzling. This was the ideal, perfect role for Katie Holmes as we're pretty sure she's an emotionless cyborg and plays one in this film. We're also perplexed as to why Taylor Swift was cast as Rosemary because filmmakers could have put anyone else in that role since she was only on screen a short time.

The book didn't get banned because it was an emotionless romance, so where was all the good stuff in the film adaptation we have been hearing so much about? In the end, this movie probably won't "wow" audiences, but it's not the worst movie we have seen this year.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Jobs"

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