I am unsure how I managed to survive through two young adult book to movie adaptations this weekend, but hey, we all make sacrifices for the good of others. The Giver follows the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), who's living peacefully is his government dictated society. Jonas is selected by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) to become a receiver. Here is where we meet The Giver (Jeff Bridges). The Giver begins to mentor Jonas, teaching him the history of the world and how everything he knows of came to be. When discovering the truth about our world, Jonas begins to unlock feelings, something unfamiliar to him.
The Giver looks upon itself higher than it should. The film means to provoke thought, much like the book it's based upon supposedly does. So, because of this, the film thinks that is a smart, political and eye opening experience. Oh boy is it wrong. While it does make an attempt at doing these things, it doesn't do them well. The film opens on this world, filmed gorgeously in black and white, followed by an introduction to our heroes, and narrated oh-so-pointlessly by Jonas. It wasn't a promising start. The introduction to the characters is painful. Their dialogue is corny and unrealistic. "What are we?" "We're friends forever" is an actual line spoken by these 18 year old characters. Perhaps if these characters were ten years younger then I may have accepted this line, but they weren't.
Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep give this film some credibility, but the remainder of the cast do the opposite. Aside from those two performances, the acting in this film is below mediocre. Brenton Thwaites is good in the moments of silence. He can successfully give a decent performance when there's no dialogue to be found, a vision in the snow stands out. Silence comes into play more towards the end of the film, though. He just fails to deliver his lines on the right note. They always appear off key and awkward. The performances from his two "friends forever," Odeya Rush and Cameron Monagha, are even worse. The Giver is now the second movie this year to star a talking tree, except the other film's tree gave more emotion.
The Giver is a very dull and rarely entertaining movie. After the initial introduction the film then goes on to take close to a third of its runtime before we're introduced to The Giver. We haven't even begun to set up any relevant obstacle or challenge Jonas must overcome. That, unfortunately, doesn't come until the film's final act (if you can even split this film up into three acts). Between the introduction and the final act not a lot happens. We follow Jonas as he trains and learns about the past, and as he tries to keep his trainings a secret, but nothing of any real significance happens. When the film finally appears to be picking up the pace (and this is after a problem finally arrives) it's all too good to be true as the film abruptly comes to an end.
To sum up, The Giver thinks of itself as a very thought-provoking and political movie, but it's really just a lifelessly acted, dull and below mediocre movie with a bunch of corny and unrealistic dialogue, as well as an abrupt ending.
1 1/2 Stars