Friday, January 23, 2015

The Giver

The Giver is a teenage novel by Lois Lowry that I have not read.  Whatever its faults and strengths, it deserves a better film adaptation than the one provided in 2014 by director Phillip Noyce.  The film portrays a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world in which the surviving members of humanity live in a community engineered to avoid conflict or inequality or unhappiness.  When babies are born they are assigned to parents.  Old people and, presumably, the sick, are remanded to a place euphemistically named “Elsewhere.”  So too are people who don’t fit in.  Everyone takes medication to suppress emotions, such as love.  Love is all there is in this sappy film.  Students attend school and when they graduate are assigned jobs: drone pilot, child bearer, etc.  Our lead character Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned to be a “Giver,” who carries the memories of everyone in the community, who knows what many do not know.  His mentor is played by Jeff Bridges, like Jonas a person who doesn’t quite fit, and who understands the real nature of the community, where love is suppressed, where rebels and the sick and the old are euthanized.  Well, once Jonas learns the truth about the community, he sets out to set things right.  The incredible amount of hooey and hoopla in this film prevents it from having to meet any standards of logic or even narrative coherence.  Jeff Bridges in particular speaks as if his mouth is full of pebbles, or as if he has just been to the dentist.  Meryl Streep, as the Chief Elder of the community, is severe and distant and autocratic and wholly bland and one wonders exactly what compelled her or Bridges to appear in this film.  The whole effort seems half-hearted and sloppy, as if no one thought it worthwhile to write a script that made sense or had continuity.

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