Before "The Hunger Games." Before "Divergent." There was "The Giver." The novel was first published over 20 years ago by Lois Lowry and it takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a teenager is the central character. This may sound similar to the previous titles just mentioned, but if anything, those authors took ideas from Lowry's best selling novel.
The world where "The Giver" is set appears to be a land floating in the clouds. People live in "dwellings" with families, but there is no pain or suffering. They all live in a world of "sameness." No one is really different from anyone else so there is no envy or anything that could make someone rise against another. In fact, the people of this world live in a world of black & white. There is no color. One boy, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) can see a little beyond the black and white world at times. At a ceremony where he and his friends find out what job they will have for the rest of their lives, Jonas is chosen to be Receiver of Memories. He will be passed along the memories of that world's past by present Receiver of Memories (Jeff Bridges), but is Jonas prepared for what is in store for him?
It's a little sad that some audience members will think "The Giver" is like Hunger Games or more closely resembles Divergent, but those movies are what probably allowed the makers to finally get the green light to make it. Those stories where it appears people are living in a Utopian society (okay, that does not describe Hunger Games) only to discover it is anything but, while those in charge will do anything to keep their world exactly as it is, make pretty good movies.
"The Giver" is a good movie, but not a great one. It builds solid character development while it is setting up its story. Phillip Noyce directs and does a solid job. When Jonas receives the memories he sees the world in bright colors for the first time and it is fun to see moments when Jonas experiences things like snow and music, which he never knew existed. The movie is pretty deep. On the one hand these people live in a world where there is no more war or violence of any kind. There is no poor and there is no rich. At the same time stuff like love and passion do not exist. Are they worth the sacrifice for this "perfect world?"
The acting in the movie is top notch. Meryl Streep plays the Chief Elder and while she is the "bad guy" her character does not see herself that way. Jeff Bridges has been wanting to bring this book to the screen for many years where he once envisioned his father playing the role of The Giver, but clearly he was meant to play the role. Katie Holmes plays Jonas' mother, a woman with a stick way up her butt, but then again, that is how most people in that world are, so she helps further the question if this "great" world everyone lives in is really worth it. Finally keep your eye out for Thwaites and Odeya Rush in the future. These two hold their own against alongside the veteran actors in the movie and so far show signs of having bright futures ahead of them.
"The Giver" does not have the rapid fan base those other teen books turned to films have, so it is difficult to project how well the movie will fare. As the summer season winds down it's a good choice for that target audience and the fans of the book should not walk away disappointed. It is rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence.