The Giver (2014)

He can see clearly now, the grey is gone.

16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in a seemingly perfect world; there’s no crime, racism, hate, anger, or any type of feelings whatsoever. Everybody, essentially, gets along with one another and that’s how they like it. Society is peaceful, calm and relaxed, but now that Jonas is at that age where he gets “chosen” for what he will do next with his life, that may all change. Eventually, Jonas is picked to be the Receiver of Memory, where he’ll learn from the almighty Giver (Jeff Bridges) – a silent, grizzled old man that has seen, felt and heard just about everything one has to in order to live a full life. Jonas and the Giver, initially, hit it off and sooner than later, Jonas’ view of the world around him begins to change as he realizes there’s more beauty and color out there that he needs. However, those higher-ups in charge don’t like that Jonas is starting to think for himself and so differently from the rest of society and decide that they have to take matters into their own hands, before it’s too late for everyone and Jonas has practically spoiled each and every person’s mind.

I think I speak for mostly everybody out there who has ever had to go through grade school, when I say that yes, I have read the Giver, and yes, it was a good book. Now, it’s been nearly seven years for me since I have read it, but I can say that, for the most part, it had a good impact on me as a young lad and made me realize all of the beauty and wonder that can come with reading something. Especially a book, no less!

Anyway, that said, a movie-adaptation seemed pretty ideal, however, what surprised me the most is that it took them so long to actually get a movie for this off the ground. A part of me felt like the name itself may have been enough to gain some recognition, but for some reason, Hollywood just didn’t agree with me.

Look at that hair! It's never that white, nor is it ever normally that long! Evil!
Look at that hair! It’s never that white, nor is it ever normally that long! Evil!

And now, I can totally see why.

It isn’t that this movie doesn’t seem to try and recreate some of the magic of the book, because it sort of does. There’s an interesting visual-contrast here that director Phillip Noyce uses in which we get a glimpse of this world in a grey font, and slowly but surely, we start to see glimmers and shadings of actual color work its way in. It’s neat to watch and see play out, especially considering that a good portion of this movie is filmed in black and white, but when that’s the only thing you’ve got good going for yourself, you’ve got a problem.

Because, yes, this movie is a total mess. Though I get that not every novel adaptation has to follow its source material literally word-for-word, page-by-page, letter-by-letter, there are certain times where I wish they spent more time was spent on actually getting to understand what the original story was all about. Here, we have an-hour-and-40-minute movie which, to some, may seem like a lot, but considering how quickly they speed by each and every major plot-point, makes you wonder just how much time they had to film this thing in the first place.

Cause, the way it turns out here, we get introduced to Jonas, this world in which he lives in and the job he has been given so dramatically, and for about 30 or so minutes, that’s all we get. Not much development for this character, the predicament he is thrown into, this world, how it could change and what’s really at stake. It’s sort of just highlighted for a near-second and then it’s off to the next major plot-point! And this goes on for the whole movie; Noyce not only doesn’t seem confident in the material itself, but also that it can’t hold any dramatic-weight, so he thinks that speeding by everything will have us ignore the movie’s many, many problems.

Which is a huge shame considering that there’s plenty of material here that could have worked, had they decided to take their time on this movie and what it was trying to say. But in today’s day and age of other, far better young adult novel adaptations, most of it seems to be material we’ve already discussed and went into before. That’s not to say there can’t be a movie that takes familiar tropes or ideas of other films, and do something with them, but in order to do so in an effective, smart way, they have to be spun in a way that’s at least interesting. Here, nothing’s interesting, nor does it really hold much weight at all.

It’s just a very dull, poorly put-together movie, which makes you wonder: How did so many talented people even get involved with it in the first place?

Well, the answer to that question is pretty simple. In fact, it’s so simple that all you have to do is look at who helped distribute it.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, the distributors for the Giver, The Weinstein Company.

Yes, it’s pretty crazy to see that the Weinstein’s would even bother with something like this, but I guess everybody makes mistakes every once and awhile. Here though, it’s very obvious that their influence over everything that they do, is here, because somehow, they were able to get not just Jeff Bridges to act in this movie, but Meryl Streep as well. Now, of course, that’s not to say neither both Bridges or Streep haven’t had a few bombs in there day and age, but here, it’s obvious that they’re far better than what they’re given.

Though he seems like a perfect fit for a tired, old man like the Giver, Bridges just mumbles and growls his way through the role and never really seems like someone who, at one point, was a real person, who is also capable of feeling all sorts of emotions. Streep is a bit better-off as the sly, vindictive and society-controlling Chief Elder, but looks too goofy with that long, grey hair of hers. She’s Meryl Streep, so of course she’s good in this role, but her character is so poorly-developed, you just hope that she at least got a good paycheck out of this. Which, she most likely did, so good for her.

Like Rooster Cogburn, except with more feelings. Aka, lame.
Like Rooster Cogburn, except with more feelings. Aka, lame.

As for the younger, far more smaller-names of the cast, they’re worse off than these two seasoned-pros. Because, while Bridges and Streep can get by on just doing what they do best, the younger ones in this cast seem like they were put in this only because they’re attractive and will attract that hip, new and young crowd this movie is clearly going for. Though he impressed me very much so in the smaller, much better sci-fi flick, the Signal, Brenton Thwaites is hopeless as Jonas; a character who, on paper, was read as a very interesting, smart character, yet here, seems like another boring teen who wants to live life, man. He’s annoying and it’s made even worse by the fact that Thwaites just isn’t all that there as a good actor. Not yet, at least.

And then there’s the quintessential young, bright and pretty love-interest a movie like this always needs to have, this time, in the form of Odeya Rush as Fiona. Rush certainly has a nice face that the camera loves, but the gal cannot act and, for most of the movie, struggles with her lines. I felt bad for her while watching, but that’s what happens when you see a bad movie: You feel bad for everybody involved. It doesn’t matter how talented, or untalented they may actually be; they’re workers, clearly trying their best and not really getting a chance to have it all work out for them.

But what makes a bad movie even worse, is knowing that the book it got everything from, was a whole lot better.

Consensus: Like every other young adult novel adaptation, the Giver prides itself on being about something, yet, is so extremely dull, painful-to-watch and boring, it’s terribly uninteresting.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

It don't matter if they're black or white!
It don’t matter if they’re black or white!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images


  1. Thanks for telling it like it is. When this was announced all those years ago, I’d waited patiently for the movie. The first trailer had red flags everywhere and the 2nd was only a slight improvement. Now with all the excess commercials, Meryl Streep’s stupid “people choose wrong” line, the fact she and Jeff Bridges get higher billing than Jonas who’s the storyline’s freaking protagonist… :shudder: I don’t think I could survive seeing this movie. I’d be raving like a lunatic the whole time. I also would die a little inside if I read the book again and all I see are flashes of this massive mistake.

  2. Everyone who ever went to grade school? You do realize this book was published in 1993? I had never heard of the book before the movie came out but apparently everyone reads it in school now. And get off my lawn! As far as the movie goes, seems like Jeff Bridges is on a pretty long losing streak.

    • Haha okay. Maybe I misjudged the timeliness of this book, but others may know what I’m speaking about. And yeah, Bridges, the dude’s got to find something good, and something real quick.

  3. What a shame, one of my favorite books! Too bad they couldn’t make it work. And as a matter of fact, Bridges has been trying to make this movie happen since the mid 90’s, but I guess all his efforts ended up going nowhere good :/

  4. Great review, man, does a good job of summing up why this went wrong. Pretty well confirms my desire not to see this one.

  5. Nice review! Honestly, I never read the book, and I didn’t think this looked that interesting to begin with, so I’m glad I read this. I’ll skip it, but maybe I will pick up that book someday.

  6. Well, I’m still going to watch it to put up a review – it hasn’t released this side of the world yet – but here’s the thing. I’m surprised. Jeff Bridges. Meryl Streep. And the trailer looked – kinda mysterious.

    Extremely well written review. I’m still so, so surprised.

  7. The trailer had me second guessing it. The Giver was a great novel and I really wanted this to work. I guess with all the choices I have for this month,I’ll be waiting for it to go on Netflix and save myself some time. Awesome review, Dan! 🙂

    Hopefully the coming book adaptations like If I Stay and Maze Runner won’t be disappointments.

  8. Interesting review. I never read the book so maybe that is a good thing. I actually enjoyed the film. I do think Meryl Streep was a complete waste, but did like Jeff Bridges, although if he gets any more gnarly he will need sub-titles 🙂

  9. I read the book a while back and it was very good. I’m guessing people have high expectations going into this one from the beginning and nothing less than spectacular would do. Thanks for this great review, man. At least now I will be prepared 😉

  10. If it is as bad as you make it out to be, that’s too bad, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I didn’t expect it to be a very good adaptation, but I was rather hoping it would be good in its own right. Oh well! I’ll probably rent it sometime still, but I’ll be sure to prepare for the worst! Great review!

  11. This movie was truly horrible. There is a book and occasionally it was referenced. At one point during the movie, my oldest stopped watching the movie and just watched my horrific reactions because it was more interesting.
    Then it happened. We watched it in the classroom after we read the book. We read the book in the fall and the year it came out we were able to view it in just a few months because it damn near went straight to DVD. I watched with sheer joy as seventh graders went through all the raw emotions that a person goes through during a mass butchering of a novel. Hope still lives! Movies based on novels still can happen. In watching how seemingly passionate Bridges was about making this movie, I still question if he read the book because I assume he read the script and it sucked. I have now viewed this movie many times because we read this every year and I teach multiple classes. It never gets old watching young children appalled by a bad movie based on a novel they love. I can’t wait for the student I taught to write and produce the remake.

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