The Giver

Directed By: Phillip Noyce

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgård, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, Cameron Monaghan, Jordan Nicholas Smal, and Saige Fernandes

Though the Chief Elder is preparing to thank the members of the Community for their childhood when The Giver arrives in theaters later this week, I want to take a moment to thank a special someone for my childhood.  I will forever remember that I was at a screening of The Giver when I learnt that comedic legend Robin Williams had passed away.  He's given us so many great comedic and dramatic performances over the years.  Works like Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, and Good Will Hunting are etched in our collective memory and will endure for generations to come.  He was a towering figure in the entertainment industry who gave us countless characters that could endear and amuse us all.  As I fittingly reflect on what a world without any memory of Robin Williams would be like, I realize that it would be a little less kind, a little less funny, and a little less joyous without this iconic comedian.  Robin Williams, thank you for my childhood.

After the Ruin, the surviving humans established a community that thrives on sameness and equality.  There's no war, no tragedy, and no despair.  At the same time, there's no love, no happiness, and no emotion.  As the latest group of teens prepares to be selected for roles as they enter the Community, friends Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush), and Asher (Cameron Monaghan) ponder what lies ahead for them.  When the Ceremony takes place, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) appears and begins notifying the students of their new assignments as chosen by the Elders.  She also thanks them for their childhood.  Fiona is assigned to be a nurturer, while Asher is designated a drone pilot.  Though number 52 on the list, Jonas gets the pleasure of seeing all 149 of his classmates get assignments prior to him.  When the Chief Elder finally gets to him, she notes that he possesses all four qualities to become the Receiver of Memory, the most important task in the Community.

Jonas' mother and father (Katie Holmes & Alexander Skarsgård) are proud of their son and his selection for this important task, but the Chief Elder warns them that immense joy and pain await their boy.  For his training, Jonas will be working with the current Receiver of Memory (Jeff Bridges), who has effectively become "The Giver".  As their lessons begin at the edge of the Community, Jonas begins to learn about the world that once was.  He begins with the simple memory of riding a sled in the snow.  Naturally, Jonas becomes curious about the world he doesn't know and wants to share it with everyone, especially Fiona.  Everything is not so rosy, however, and Jonas does eventually get exposed to the harsher side of life.  Meanwhile, the Chief Elder looks in on the Giver and his new Receiver of Memory to make sure that there isn't a repeat of what happened ten years ago with a girl named Rosemary (Taylor Swift).

The Giver has arrived in theaters exactly when it was fated to do so.  Author Lois Lowry says so herself.  Though it was eighteen years in the making, take a moment to reflect on how different the final product would be.  Jeff Bridges wouldn't have been old enough to play the title role.  I doubt Meryl Streep would have signed onto the movie.  A few of the cast members weren't even born yet. Lastly, we wouldn't even have the technology we have today to bring the Community to life or make the case for the beauty and tragedy of humanity the way we can now.  Having seen the film, I can definitely say it's a rich cinematic treat lush with colorful and colorless visuals, a potent blend of emotions, and strong performances from veteran and newbie actors alike.  The Giver is exactly the kind of movie that just fits, one that advocates for living life to the fullest.  That's exactly what the world needs right now, especially with the passing of screen legend Robin Williams.

Director Phillip Noyce does a great job in bringing Lois Lowry's The Giver to life.  He creates this nuanced film that really highlights each character's perspective of the world in which they live.  He does so by using varying colors in his cinematography.  For instance, Jonas’s world gradually moves from black and white colors to the full array of the spectrum as he stops taking injections and learns about the world that once was.  As the Giver, the Chief Elder, and other members of the Community take the camera, Noyce's visuals change based on how much each character is in touch with his or her own humanity.  Beyond just colors, Noyce employs raw emotion, or a lack thereof, to give the film a cult-like vibe, especially when Jonas or The Giver interacts with any other member of the Community not in touch with his or her feelings.  Noyce’s careful use of an array of potent emotions allows him to make the case for living life to the fullest by showing us the suffocating world that would be without them.  Moreover, Noyce delivers deft, detailed direction that does Lowry's book justice.

The cast delivers a slew of outstanding performances.  For his part as our star Jonas, Brenton Thwaites brings a rebellious, curious energy to the film that fuels his character and the overall story.  He does some great work in gradually moving from an emotionless droid to a bundle of youthful energy.  As his romantic interest Fiona, Odeya Rush brings an aloof warmth to the film.  Because her character is still a functioning member of the Community devoid of emotion, Rush manages to keep this aspect of her persona latent, but the beautiful subtlety of her performance does not go unnoticed.  For their parts as the Giver and the Chief Elder, screen legends Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep perfectly embody these two opposing forces.  For his part, Bridges brings emotion, wisdom, and humanity to the film.  For hers, Streep brings an ice cold antagonist lacking the very humanity Bridges captures.  The remainder of the supporting cast does an outstanding job removing all emotion from their performances and helping Noyce to create this cult-like world devoid of joy and sorrow.

After a string of so-so movies this past weekend, The Giver is exactly the kind of film we need at the box office.  Noyce makes a beautiful case for life that resonates, especially given all that's going on this week in Hollywood and around the globe.  The Giver gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.