Release Date: 19th September 2014
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Taylor Swift
The Giver is proof, if proof were needed, that Hollywood’s obsession with adaptations of teen romance and sci-fi novels isn’t going away any time soon. This time we have a utopian society where war, famine and disease have all been eradicated, along with colour, emotions and free thinking. It’s a world that’s just waiting for a plucky youngster to come along and buck the system with some dangerous independent ideas. This hero comes in the form of Brenton Thwaites’ Jonas, who at the age of 18 is assigned the mysterious position of Keeper of Secrets as his new role in the community. Here he is placed in the tutelage of the mysterious Giver (Jeff Bridges) and through their time together, he learns that not everything is rosy in this futuristic Garden of Eden.
While it is very easy to mock the genre for it’s pouty protagonists and over inflated sense of importance there have been glimpses, namely the first Hunger Games and the last 30 minutes of the final Twilight instalment, that there is some fun to be had. Sadly enjoyment and amusement of any sort have all been outlawed in this perfect community, a policy Phillip Noyce seems to have also adopted during production. Despite nods to Orwell’s 1984 with it’s repressive, all-seeing overlords, there is very little to get excited about here. Indeed all its best bits; namely the premise and its use of colour, have all been done many times before.
It’s not a complete write-off. Nothing with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep ever could be. The former is almost on auto-pilot as the gruff sensei hiding a tragic loss, while the latter’s cold, calculating demeanour adds much needed chills. They breathe just enough life into proceedings to keep the film alive, but even they can’t cover the gaping pot holes. Why would a society so dead set on forgetting the past would even bother with the clearly troublesome position of a Keeper of Secrets? Or why would Jonas crossing an invisible border magically restore the collective memories of the entire population?
Presumably these are things Lowry covered in the source material. The few lines of exposition it is afforded here serves as the equivalent of a shrug and a “cause it’s a film”. It is commendable that the director tried his best to keep the whole affair to as close to a 90 minute run time as possible (even resisting the urge to split the movie into two parts!), but a little bit more time spent explaining these problems would have gone a long way. It doesn’t help when the romantic leads (Thwaites and Odeya Rush) exhibited a vapidness that makes Kristen Stewart & Robert Pattinson’s mumbly courtship in Twilight seem like Bogart and Bacall in comparison. Ironic then, that a film about the importance of remembering the past is so utterly forgettable. Give’r a miss.