Whenever I see Meryl Streep in a movie, I always automatically assume she is there to make me cry. She just has this completely tragic face, like she’s always just heard that her puppy was run over. So of course, when I saw her in a top roll in The Giver, I know it was going to be a real laugh fest.
The Giver is the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young man who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Then, he starts hanging out with The Giver (Jeff Bridges). The giver is the sole keeper of all the memories in his community, including the stories of its dark, violent past. The giver is based on a 1994 Newbury Award winner of the same name.
Just writing the synopsis gave me depression. Not that I’m saying it’s not good, but it’s an unusual take on the genre. In most teen dystopian literature, most of the focus is spent on the plucky heroine who doesn’t know she’s pretty and is in the midst of a love triangle. The Giver doesn’t follow that plot line. It’s is far more dramatic and dark.
One interesting thing they did with this movie was along the lines of Pleasantville. In that movie, black and white was done at the beginning, while color came into the world as people gained knowledge. The same idea is used here, and it really is a direction that involves beautiful contrast. I’m very glad they chose to do this because it really does add something to the film.
Meryl Streep is back to increase the grey melancholy. She plays the head honcho in the supposedly utopian community and the heroes’ main antagonist. She does a bad girl passably well, albeit a boring one.
The theme of the film is really about the absence of emotion used to solve world conflicts. People are medicated and can only see in black and white. They don’t know how to clap or laugh or what a real elephant is. It’s an odd mix of The Gods Must be Crazy and Equilibrium with some teen angst thrown in.
For the most part, it works. This was a book I enjoyed as a child and I’m glad to see that the makers did justice to it. While it might be a bit darker and more cerebral than most teen dystopian offerings, it is by no means unwatchable. I’d rather suffer through this one than watch Christian Bale’s never changing face in Equilibrium anytime.
While the film showed up 2 decades after the book, it feels as if it was worth the wait. The characters are well played, the scenes fleshed out and the plot unfolds at an even pace. At times, it might plod and try too hard to be intellectual, but for the most part, it’s an easy watch.
If you’re tired of teen dystopian with the same leading ladies more worried about which crush they’re going to date than saving the world, then you’ll probably enjoy The Giver. This is a clever take on an old premise, in fact this is the tale that started the old premise that many teen Hollywood movies take.
WE GAVE IT: 3.5 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!