The Giver

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When Katie Holmes continually says, “Precision of Language” you can’t help but laugh. It’s almost like her years being in the Tom Cruise Cult had trained her well for what may have been her only line in the film. How her agent didn’t talk her out of this is beyond me.

This has been a project producer/star Jeff Bridges had been trying to bring to the screen for 20 years. It’s a shame it took so long for the Lois Lowry novel, because now it arrives after Divergent, Elysium, and The Hunger Games – and feels very derivative. It would’ve already felt that way for us older folks – since it is a lot like Logan’s Run, The Stepford Wives, Pleasantville, and a few Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury stories.

It’s an Orwellian atmosphere where the sameness of society has been deemed the best option (although it’s not addressed how we’ve come to only see Caucasians). Since free thinking and ideas have caused wars and crime, the “Elders” feel they can do a Nurse Ratched and drug the community into a calm state of utopia.

In a scene right out of Divergent, the teenagers are given jobs and roles in community. Hearing a few women were chosen to be “birth mothers” made me think…who are the fathers? Were there a group of teen boys crossing their fingers, hoping to be picked as an impregnator?

And do the couples even have sex? They kind of show us how family units are put together, which leads us to believe they don’t, and that sexual desire is suppressed (they do call arousal “stirrings” among the teens). All of that makes Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarskaard relationship that much creepier.

Skarskard played a cult leader in The East, and his facial expressions are perfect for the role. You include Meryl Streep as the main community Elder – we’ve got some great talent in this bland picture.

One teen, worried about his lot in life, is “luckily” chosen for the prestigious job of “the receiver.” He will get to acquire all the knowledge about the town, and also the human race on Earth. He’ll see the happiness people possessed, but also the horrors. Jeff Bridges is the dude that’s going to pass down this information to him in both book form, and also by touching his hand and making some connection mentally by gripping his hand tightly.

The set pieces were nice to look at. The homes had a modernism, and we get white drones and white bicycles that could sometimes give an idyllic quality, other times…scary (for example, if they’re chasing you). The Elders have their eyes on everything. So, if you’re thinking about kissing that girl by the waterfall, probably a bad idea. Keep those stirrings to yourself.

The chemistry between the receiver and the giver works, but it seems rushed. We didn’t get enough time establishing all the characters and getting emotionally involved before it became a story about whether or not the hero will do the right thing and risk everything trying.

Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent) impressed me in the indie picture The Signal, but here he didn’t properly show the range of emotion needed for a character whose brain was being bombarded by all this.

I’m not sure why I wanted Streep to play her character a bit more sinister. Perhaps since we know she can do that well (The Devil Wears Prada), and we had so much fun watching Tilda Swinton in that role in another dystopia film last month – Snowpiercer. It’s obvious where this (and Snowpiercer) is going – yet Snowpiercer was a more fun ride.

For a movie showing us an emotionless society, it shouldn’t leave the audience feeling the same way.

This gets 2 stars out of 5.

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