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Film & TV Reviews

FILM REVIEW: The Giver

TheGiverMovie

This month’s book club pick is Lois Lawry‘s 1993 novel The Giver. In 2014 a film adaptation directed by Phillip Noyce (The Bone Collector, Rabbit Proof Fence, Salt) was released 21 years after the novel’s initial release.

It was a long journey for the story to come to the screen. Actor Jeff Bridges (The Giver) co-produced the film with producer Nikki Silver and manager Neil Koenigsberg. Bridges has had a 20 year long interest in the project. His original intention was to direct his father Lloyd Bridges, in the role of The Giver. The success of The Hunger Games and Divergent film adaptations paved the way for The Giver to come to screen. Unfortunately the success of these other dystopian young adult films make The Giver look like a recycled version of these many films. It really is a pity this film came a decade too late.

Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Jeff Bridges (The Giver) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

Australian actor Brenton Thwaites was cast as the protagonist Jonas. In the novel Jonas is twelve; in the film he is sixteen. This is probably a wise decision as an older actor will be able to work longer hours than a child actor, have more experience and ability in playing the role and a teenage actor will also have more appeal to the target teen audience. Also having Jonas being sixteen also means the film can explore Jonas’s first love with friend and classmate Fiona (Odeya Rush).

Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)
Brenton Thwaites (Jonas) and Odeya Rush (Fiona)

Meryl Streep plays the film’s antagonist role of the Chief Elder. This role has been extended from what is in the novel most likely to showcase Streep’s talents and use her star profile. It is a similar case of singer Taylor Swift being cast as Rosemary, the previous Receiver of Memory. Rosemary is quite a small part in the book but in the film has been fleshed out more in the film with several flashbacks.

Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)
Meryl Streep (Chief Elder) and Jeff Bridges (The Giver)

The character Asher (Cameron Monaghan) in the novel was the slightly goofy, happy-go-lucky comic relief and best friend to Jonas. In the film the character is changed to a much more brooding, serious teen. This is to give the film more conflict but personally I miss the Asher of the novel.

Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Emma Tremblay round out the supporting cast as Jonas’ mother, father and younger sister.

Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)
Cameron Monaghan (Asher), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Brenton Thwaites (Jonas)

The film remains largely faithful to the themes of the book although many details of the book have been changed for film, which may disappoint some fans of the book.

Categories
Book Club Pick

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Book Club Pick: August 2015

TheGiver

Book Details:

Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Series: First novel in the Giver Quartet

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books

First Published: 1993

Pages: 225

Publisher’s Description:

“I have a great honor,” the Giver said. “So will you. But you will find that it not the same as power.”

Life in the community where Jonas lives in idyllic. Designated birthmothers produce new children, who are assigned to appropriate family units: one male, one female, to each. Citizens are assigned their partners and their jobs. No one thinks to ask questions. Everyone obeys. The community is a precisely, choreographed world without conflict, inequality, divorce, unemployment, injustice . . . or choice.

Everyone is the same.

Except Jonas.

At the Ceremony of Twelve, the community’s twelve-year-olds eagerly accept their predetermined life Assignments. Bur Jonas is chosen fro something special. He begins instruction in his life’s work with a mysterious old man known only as the Giver. Gradually Jonas learns that power lies in feelings. But when his own power is put to the test – he may not be ready. Is it too soon? Or too late?

 

Review:

The novel opens with eleven-year-old Jonas awaiting his Ceremony of Twelve, where he will be assigned his career and begin his training.

Jonas lives in a community where a group of Elders select everything including one’s parents, career, spouse and children. All the negative aspects of society have been removed and the community lives in a safe world of sameness, but unfortunately many of the positive aspects of life have also been removed.

At his Ceremony of Twelve Jonas is assigned the position of Receiver of Memory. The Receiver holds all the memories of the past that include both pleasant and painful ones. The idea is by having the Receiver, the community is not burdened with this knowledge.

During his training sessions the current Receiver of Memory, and now Giver of Memory transfers the memories of the past, that include positive memories like the excitement of riding a sled in the snow but also painful memories like war, famine and death.

As Jonas begins to experience these memories he learns some shocking secrets about the how the community is managed and begins to question the world he is living in.

The novel has a rather ambiguous ending, which while hopefully will leave readers in thought may frustrate some.

The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and is frequently included on top young adult literature lists, but it is also one of the top 25 most frequently challenged or banned books in America.

A film adaptation was released in 2014 starring Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.

TheGiverMovie

 

Links:

Lois Lowry Official Website

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.