DM Haight


Excellent execution is difficult. The Giver realized that 30 minutes in. But what is so disappointing about the execution of that film, is that it didn’t have to fail. They created a cookie cutter world. It was “perfect” in every good and bad sense the word may imply. The first quarter of the movie was like watching an episode of Andy Griffith. Softer lighting, no contrasts, no urgency, no emotional connection. The cinematography in those first few moments were pure genius. It was like watching the perfect world through the lens of the 1950s perspective. What was delivered was expected, cheery, with little to no consequences. We have a hero, a hero’s girl, and a hero’s buddy. The buddy even has that annoying quality all sidekicks had in the 50s.

It was such a claustrophobic, paint by colors, black and white display that I began to think the filmmakers must be geniuses. Soon they were going to reveal a truth, a vibrancy that no one else could see, only the Receiver. But that doesn’t happen when the color is turned back on. Phillip Noyce, director of this picture, with his cinematographer, Ross Emery, should both be ashamed for giving the fans a film as drab and null of any emotion like The Giver is. I have seen a lot of really bad movies. I can usually stomach ones that just can’t muster up the ability to be good. The ones that frustrate me are the ones that refuse to be bold, like The Giver.

The Giver is about a Utopian society in the aftermath of a supposed social apocalypse. This has left the few in power to restrict any rash emotion in their subjects. Essentially everyone is blissful, lacking character, and ignorant of any past. The idealic world for any leader. Almost too easy to explain. You could go with roughly a sentence to explain it and get on with the rest of the plot. But that would be too simple. And let me be the first to say, the actors, the story—they’re all fantastic. The writing has definitely been cut up and “fixed” to the point where the soul of the film was cut out. When Meryl Streep is constricted and powerless, and not because her role demands it, then you have an issue with your film.

On a positive note, Jeff Bridges was engaging and sage-like, as are many of his roles as of late. His hermit aura throughout the film makes his frequent walks through the community bizarre and unnatural. What Noyce seems to have neglected was the fact that an outsider who resides on the border of a society will not often venture back into that society. Knowing all that the Giver knows, how could he walk among the ignorant and not try to enlighten them? Could he be so emotionally strong that he doesn’t need to help them; so sadistic that he could watch them all behave like a 50s sitcom; does he find them humorous? No, it’s poor direction and a lack of true vision. The film’s star, Brenton Thwaites, has his own charm that is apparently squandered. His frenetic pace after his enlightenment is reminiscent of a curious child running around. He’s pure joy. You can see it in his eyes. That untarnished joy of curiosity builds and builds, leading to an unknown that we desperately want to traverse. And then we get the mother of let downs when that build leads to an awkward romance between two actors that have no time to build proper chemistry.

It’s not Odeya Rush’s fault. She was charismatic and had her own brand of curiosity that mirrored that of Thwaites’. She has the tools to make the role of Fiona special, to make the romance between Fiona and Jonas unique and earthshaking. But she and Thwaites aren’t given the direction to do it. Instead we watch as they go through the motions of standard romance, sparkless and unremarkable. It’s a comment on the film as a whole—sparkless and unremarkable.

What should have been a film that harkened back to Orwellian dystopias, was instead another drop into the pool of uninspired teen drivel. There have only been a few other films that have had so much potential only to squander it in hopes of pandering to the masses of middle and high schoolers. What we receive with The Giver is far from enlightening. Its pops of joy and excitement, stamped out by cliché and mundane directing and photography. It should have been an awakening for the greater heights of the teen dystopian genre, instead it fell between the cracks of what was and what could have been.

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