Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Giver

Director: Phillip Noyce
With: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift

What's up with the number of Dystopian/Utopian films this year? We just had Divergent, and earlier this year we had Snowpiercer, then in the last quarter we'll have the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. But I'm not here to complain, if these films continue to entertain then I wouldn't mind watching more of them. Like The Giver, it's thoroughly entertaining. I didn't regret watching it at all even though I was planning on skipping it and just wait for HBO or Star Movies to show it.

Based on the children's novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver follows a boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) living in a Utopian society where pain, hunger, poverty and even love were eliminated. A society wherein every member has an assignment or a job for the community. It's basically like other futuristic films wherein there are factions, or districts, or people are separated into class but in no way it's repetitive or too familiar.

It's probably best that I didn't read the book as I've learned from some friends that the film adaptation didn't give justice to its origin. I guess it's better this way because I'm highly satisfied by the film. Yes, it's notably far from being perfect but the things I like about it are wonderful. The line between utopia and dystopia in The Giver is very interesting and fun to follow. I enjoyed the absurdity of their community. How the words 'family', 'terrified' and 'love' are offensive and how kisses, colors and music are taboo. Weirdly enough, I also enjoyed the repetition of the phrases -- 'Thank you for your childhood', 'precision of language' and 'I accept your apology'. The characters are also eminently engaging may it be the heroes, the villains and the innocents. Everything is amusing. Another highlight is Marco Beltrami's mesmerizing score that multiplies the beauty and intensity of the scenes. His music is a standout that I really waited for the credits to roll to take note of his name. He gave Taylor Swift something to sing and play with the piano.

What the film really struggled on is how to execute the requirements of the story. Like Life of PiThe Giver is considered as one of the hardest books to adapt into a film. But unlike the former, Noyce's The Giver wasn't backed up by stunning visual effects. Bad, bad effects. I also didn't appreciate that it used some visuals/scenes from other resources. Although the visuals that they borrowed are magnificent, it would probably been much better if they made their own 'realities'. Then again I doubt they would be successful in creating their own ones because it was obvious the visuals is not the film's strongest suit.

I also have to commend on how good Brenton Thwaites is as a lead. He's not the Jonas that I've envisioned when I read the novel's synopsis but it's easy to overlook the miscasting when the actor is good. It doesn't hurt that he's got great chemistry with the ridiculously beautiful Odeya Rush. Love both Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep here too. I thought they only have a few scenes here and that the film would focus more on Thwaites but they actually have a bunch. Often juicy too. Streep here proved yet again that she's an effective villain. A calm one for that matter. In fact, she sort of reminded me of her Miranda Priestly, except less glamorous and less epic. Still, the distracting Anjelica Huston hair didn't wipe out her undeniable talent. Also, the amazing baby! ;_;

What's a futuristic film without its share of philosophy? After all, the book it was adapted on is known for it. Well, The Giver is rich in thought provoking philosophical concepts. It clearly captivated the importance of knowledge, feelings and other aspects that form an imperfect community that somehow, this imperfection makes us all human beings. Again, I wouldn't know if the film dug deep enough into the thoughts of its origin. It's Lois Lowry for cryinoutloud but I must say, The Giver, despite its imperfection will probably end up as one of my favorites by the end of the year.