So I read the book a couple of days ago in preparation for this movie, because I believe in reading the book before watching the film adaptation. I wanted to believe that the people who were saying “forget everything you know about the book” were exaggerating. Boy, did I get my hopes dashed. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read this review because I’m about to get into some of the major differences between them that contain spoilers.
Before I get into all of the things that bugged me, let me talk about what I loved. It really boils down to two things: Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Of all the changes that they made in this adaptation, expanding the Chief Elder’s part was one of the less terrible ones. Getting Meryl Streep to play her was fantastic! I love Meryl, she always brings such depth of emotion to every character she plays. Here, her character has no emotion, but even in that she gives her a little something extra to make her stand out.
As for the things the filmmakers got exactly right? The Giver himself. Jeff Bridges knocks this part out of the park, working through bits of lazy writing and rushed exposition. He lets The Giver’s passion take center stage, whether that be love or loss. That is what makes the Giver who he is, both love and loss, the only person until Jonas who understands those things. Hats off to you, Jeff Bridges!
I apologize if this gets a little ranty *waits for the readers to say that they accept my apology*. I have a lot to say. When a book is translated into film there are certainly things that must be changed to make it more cinematic. Changing this much, however, will not make loyal readers very happy. I will say that as a movie for people who have never read the source material it mostly works. Mostly.
From a filmmaking standpoint there are a few major problems. Here’s a hint: do not gloss over a major emotional reveal. “Oh hey, this girl we’ve been talking about for a third of the movie? She’s my daughter. Ok, moving on!” No, this is an emotional moment, or it should be. The Giver has lived with loss of his own for ten years, don’t you dare cheapen this moment, movie! Maybe take out a few minutes from the half hour made up crap at the end and put a bit more time into The Giver’s feelings.
One thing that many movie adaptations do that always irritates me is changing who the characters are. This is seen most obviously in Asher, but also in Fiona. By changing their jobs you change a lot about them. Making Asher a pilot? No, whose idea was that? Asher stopped being Asher 10 minutes into the movie. He would never turn in to such a goodie-goodie. Poor Asher, what have they done to you? And all of this for a silly. made up action scene near the end. No. Stop.
Some changes, like aging the characters up, I can understand. Even I sometimes found it hard to believe that a 12 year old could do everything Jonas does in the book. But do we really need to add in a romance? I could write an entire post on my feelings about this ridiculousness, but I won’t. Unless you want me to. Why in the name of all that is holy does everything HAVE to have a romance? Everything that Jonas has seen, and his bond with Gabe, is plenty motivation. Why do we have to bring a girl into it?
While I understand making some changes, a movie called The Giver should be more than about 30% source material. A friend of mine phrased it like this, “Whoever wrote the screenplay apparently read the book while drunk, then fell asleep watching [insert sci-fi dystopian movie here], and couldn’t remember which plot belonged to which thing. Also, was it really necessary to fill up approximately twenty minutes of the film with close ups of Jonas bicycling with his derp face on?” I think that’s a pretty accurate description, and it makes me sad.
The Conclusion: While this may make a decent movie for someone who hasn’t read the book, it is a very poor adaptation of the source material. If you loved the book you may be disappointed. Sorry, folks.