Re-post from Knoxville.com
The main theme of director Philip Noyce’s adaptation of “The Giver” is breaking away from sameness. Everyone agrees with each other, no one lies, they have a curfew and they don’t ask questions. In the ever-increasing young-adult genre (in film series like “Divergent” and “Hunger Games”), “The Giver” wants to be different from its predecessors, but ultimately, ends up being just like all the other adaptations.
Brenton Thwaites stars as Jonas, a boy on the cusp on graduating and earning a job. In this world, people are assigned their careers by the elders of the community following their childhood years. Jonas has two good friends, Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush), a family at home that keeps him in line and the prospects of entering the world and finding his place. But this task is also scary for Jonas, as he fears he may not have a place within society.
During the ceremony to assign jobs, Jonas is passed over and, in the end, given the task of becoming the next “receiver of memories” by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep). He will work with the current receiver (Jeff Bridges), who then becomes the giver.
The Giver is tasked with sharing the memories of a life that no one remembers and holding onto the pain that comes with them. In this society, the terrors (such as war or famine) have been taken away from the memories of its people, but that also comes with the good emotions being lost as well. This is apparent through conversations with the people, even Jonas’ family members, throughout the film. They have a set time where they share “feelings” from the day and when the topic of love comes up his mother (Katie Holmes) and father (Alexander Skarsgard) ask him to re-word what he is asking them about.
Bridges plays the part well, giving wise, Obi-Wan-like sage advice to young Jonas while they train. But where “The Giver” loses track is when it attempts to stretch beyond the conventions of its genre.
Thwaites is solid as Jonas, yet his character is never any different from the lead character in any other novel on the young-adult shelf at Barnes & Noble. He says and thinks the right things, but he never makes us to believe that this is something he is actually doing with free will.
Also, his friends are lifeless. Fiona feels like every love interest, whether from “Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” as she plays the part of being available when the hero needs a smooch or needs to be pushed forward. She expresses a desire for free-thinking, yet she merely follows Jonas to a tee, and her personality remains as flat as those of the rest of the town.
Still, the movie is never awful. Noyce is able to bring an inventive visual change to the film by alternating between black and white and color, depending on where Jonas is with his training with The Giver and how much he has broken from the regular rules set by the Chief Elder.
“The Giver” may not be bad, but it isn’t good, either. It is a movie that preaches about individualism and being real … and in the end, it is just like all the rest.