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The Giver (2014)
I wanted to love it, but...
Okay, let me first start off by saying that I read the book seven years ago and it changed my entire perspective on life...not even kidding. This story is absolutely incredible, and I was thrilled that it was finally being brought to the big screen. I decided to abandon my expectations since I knew that the film would likely differ from the book. Overall, there weren't too many differences actually. The two key changes are the ages of the characters, which, to my surprise, complemented the original storyline quite well and added a little maturity and complexity to the situation, and the job assignments for two supporting characters: Asher and Fiona.
I'm going to state the positives first. The plot, as I stated before, is great...brilliant, actually. The futuristic feel works quite well, being subtle yet still obvious at the same time. The use of color when appropriate with what Jonas is seeing as he progressed though his training is phenomenal. Casting wise, Jeff Bridges steals the show with his portrayal of the caring, yet blunt and mysterious Giver. Brenton Thwaites captures the spirit of Jonas, but I kept getting the feeling that he was playing to the original 12 year old book character. I was also impressed by Katie Holmes, who plays Jonas's brainwashed "mother," and Meryl Streep, who holds a very steady characterization of the supremely stern Chief Elder. I feel like Jeff Bridges could deserve an Oscar nomination, and Meryl Streep will likely be up for some awards too.
Here's the bad news - the pacing in this film is atrocious. At the start of the film, it takes only five or ten minutes to get to the first major plot twist: Jonas's placement as Receiver of Memory. You feel completely thrown into the story and only get a small taste of the background and structure of the society that is being portrayed. Suddenly, Jonas starts his training and the pace slows down drastically, only to speed up way to fast by the end. It feels short...way too short. You're left with questions that should have been answered at the start of the movie. Not cool.
My other complaint is a lack of connection that the viewer has to the film and its characters, particularly Jonas. Is this due to the pacing problem? Most likely. It was sad though, walking out and immediately returning to my everyday thoughts rather than being stuck on the movie for hours. That was extremely disappointing.
I honestly wonder if I would have liked this film more if I hadn't read the book, and as I said before, I tried to keep my reading out of it. I just couldn't help it. The Giver is good, and I wanted to fall in love with it, but I only wound up liking it.