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The Giver

2014-09-16 07:59
What's it about:

In an insular society known as The Community, a culture of “sameness” is embraced. Pain and suffering have been eradicated from daily life, along with any notion of individuality or choice. Members of The Community lead a seemingly perfect existence, unburdened by the harsh realities of the “real” world. A lone man among them has been designated to retain all memories of the way life once was. Now, the time has come for that man to pass his knowledge to another.

What we thought:

A lot of hype revolved this movie in South Africa as famous A-list celebs descended upon our country’s wine lands to shoot The Giver last year. Unfortunately it did not live up to it.
Utopian/Dystopian scenarios where the system gets taken down by an unassuming youth has been the bread and butter of Hollywood these days, including superhero mania.

Starting with Hunger Games, and then Divergent, many have jumped on the bandwagon and although Jeff Bridges has been trying to get this film off the ground for years, it seems it only got made to get a piece of that Orwellian pie.

It is set in a society where everything is in balance, and of course the only way to keep that balance according to Hollywood is the take people’ choice and emotions away. At first the Community seems utopian, but a youth who is tasked of being the Receiver of Memories starts to unveil its hypocrisies. The producers also threw in a love interest for good measure (which doesn’t feature in the original).

In terms of cinematography, the film is beautifully done, starting off as grey as the Sameness that the Community adheres to. The more the Receiver, Jonas, learns about happiness, love and pain, the more colours he starts to see and the films becomes more vibrant. It is an obvious metaphor that life is grey without emotion, the good and the bad, and these colours follow Jonas everywhere as he travels to Elsewhere.

By now you would recognise a lot of similarities to Equilibrium, a Christian Bale movie where people’s emotions are also subdued by chemicals, except The Giver comes without martial arts. This movie definitely seems more pleasant with a more organic type of technology rather than a robust one, but Equilibrium made a much stronger statement than The Giver, which I found, just like its grey colour scheme, to be super bland.

As bland as the story was, the acting was quite good. Meryl Streep can hardly do wrong and definitely the best role Bridges has played in a long time (still can’t forgive him for R.I.P.D). Katie Holms was underwhelming though, but this got masked by True Blood favourite Alexander Skarsgard, who plays an endearing yet clueless father. As for the lead, Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Blue Lagoon 2) he doesn’t do too bad of a job, although sometimes he did overact. His two friends (the cliché two guys and a girl, the latter becoming a love interest) included Shameless star Cameron Monaghan and breakout actress Odeya Rush, one to look out for who had some moments of stunning performances.

Unfortunately, the plot lacked a lot of sparkle and didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. It kind of took all the themes of what makes us human and the intricacies of choice and dumbed it down to the level of pre-teens. A good introduction into this kind of philosophy for them, an absolute bore for those who have made it through puberty. But hey, at least it was shot in SA.  

Despite a stunning performance from Jeff Bridges, The Giver is only an okay movie, just missing the mark to make it a good movie.
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