Monday, February 9, 2015

Movie Monday: The Giver

The Giver
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

I love Lois Lowry's The Giver. Even though most of my peers read it years and years ago, I only was introduced to the book (and series!) in 2012. It somehow was one of those books I had just never gotten around to reading. How glad I am that changed!

If you haven't read the book, I strongly encourage you to do so. And, if you read it years ago, you may not know there is a whole series! Lowry just wrote the fourth book a couple years ago, long after the other three. All are good, but the sequels, I must admit, do not come close to The Giver - at least not for me. 

Along with many Giver fans, I anticipated last summer's film adaptation with both excitement and apprehension. The book is so good and was going to prove inherently difficult to adapt for a visual audience. There is a reason it had not been done in the intervening years between original publication and now.

The trailer made me nervous. The online discussions made me nervous. The somewhat lack luster reception at the box office made me nervous. So, we waited for Netflix.

We do that with basically everything but Hunger Games anyway, so it wasn't a big deal for us. Plus, Kevin has not read The Giver (I know!!), so he was not particularly interested. We finally got around to requested the Blu-Ray late this fall.

Right from the start, I sighed with relief to see the black and white. I know there were a lot of us out there worried that the perception of color would either be left out or not handled well. I have to say: I think the color issue was handled better than basically anything else in the film. I found the black and white haunting and powerful. The integration of color as Jonas receives the memories was so smooth you almost did not realize it was happening. Then, late in the film, when there are shots back in the black and white, you suddenly realize the huge contrast and the power of it sweeps over you again.

I also thought the memories worked well. This was another piece that I felt could have gone very poorly.

Now for the not great things...

First of all, I did not remember any of that love story bit from the book. In the book, they are much younger. This, to me, was the first of a multitude of subplots added for Hollywood appeal. Then, add in the dramatic race for freedom at the end. A lot of this just did not ring true with the original story for me. 

I understand perfectly that the original story does not contain the action or much of the suspense needed to hold a movie audience. Hence, my apprehension about the book being adapted in the first place. Yet, I do not think that drawing out the ending so much and adding so much plot ultimately added anything to the story. If directors and screenwriters are going to add to the story, I would much rather see it be elements and subplots that enhance the story and the characters (see: district rebellions in Mockingjay). I do feel like the Taylor Swift bit weirdly did accomplish this to an extent, but even that was brief in comparison to the whole climax at the end.

Ultimately, I was disappointed. It certainly could have been worse. But I think it also could have been better. Or, maybe not. I don't know. During this book into an attempted Hollywood blockbuster was probably never the right path for it. I appreciated the production value and getting to watch the ever brilliant Meryl Streep in action and that likely would not have happened with a small, independent adaptation. Still, I think it needed a stronger artistic touch. It needs to be more about the characters and the underlying messages between the lines of the book than about the action or government corruption.

Did you see the movie? What did you think?


  1. This is why I was too nervous to see the movie. The Giver is one of my favorite childhood books and in my opinion it isn't an easy one to adapt for film or TV. I'm glad they kept the black-and-white aspect in the beginning, but why did they have to add a love story? I MAY watch this if it comes on Netflix Watch Instantly one day, but for now I don't really have an interest in it =P I'd much rather read the book again.

    1. That's a good call. Wait for Netflix for sure. Or just reread the book. It's so masterful and the movie just didn't capture that. Makes me sad that Lowry waited so long to have it adapted and then it still didn't capture her book very well.

  2. I still haven't seen this movie! Like you (and most of the rest of the book-loving internet world) I was super nervous after seeing the trailer. I wrote about it actually ( I think the book is just too beloved to too many. It would be hard for any movie to do it justice.

    1. Yes! I read that blog post back when you wrote it and it made me SO apprehensive about the movie. I was glad they ended up doing the black and white thing and surprised that ended up being one of the better parts of the movie. Overall, though, this story is just too complex to really capture on screen for a mass audience.