The Bock’s Office: ‘The Giver’ suffers from sameness | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘The Giver’ suffers from sameness

Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) prepares to receive a memory from the title character (Jeff Bridges) in "The Giver." The movie is about a society in which all pain and differences have been removed from the populace, at a price.

Rarely are the days to come presented in a positive light when it comes to the movies, and "The Giver" is no exception. Of course, everything looks bleak when you're seeing it all in black and white.

In the near future, society has been "fixed" of all its problems. Within planned communities, people know little discomfort and have practically no conflict as they live their daily lives.

This is the way it's always been for 16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) and his friends Asher and Fiona (Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush), and as they embark upon a coming-of-age ceremony where their adult careers will be decided, their hope is that they'll be able to remain close.

However, Jonas has something else in store for him, with the panel of elders who make the crucial decisions selecting him for a unique role: Receiver of Memory. With no understanding of what this job even means, he reports for duty to be trained by the previous holder of this solitary post, an old man who calls himself The Giver (Jeff Bridges).

The Giver bestows upon Jonas a series of recollections from mankind's past, which allow the boy to feel things he has never experienced, leaving him to see the world in a whole new way. Unfortunately, these new sensations also include pain, which brings with it the realization that the utopia he's living in is far from perfect.

Bridges is kind of young to be playing a character you'd expect to see portrayed by someone along the lines of Anthony Hopkins with a beard down to his knees. Still, he easily conveys the kind of wistful aura of someone who's been entirely alone for too long, knowing the hard facts of life when everyone else is blissfully ignorant.

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Thwaites has a tougher time of it as Jonas, but to be fair, how do you act convincingly as a kid who's never seen color, told a lie or had a rebellious thought, suddenly hit by a rush of emotions you didn't even know existed? Naturally he can't tell his parents (Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård) what he's going through, but what good would that do anyway?

Meryl Streep is typically excellent as the Chief Elder, whose carefully polite and restrained personality belies that of a despot who will do anything to keep the structure of society, no matter what the cost. A little hint: When your benevolent leader can project via hologram into your living room, it's probably too late to save the concept of free will.

Would you trade security for happiness? You can't have both, according to the bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry.

With true emotions, suppressed by daily injections in Jonas' world, come the risk of all the bad ones, like hatred, anger and jealousy. Sure, there's no racism in a community that doesn't discriminate based on skin pigmentation, but with that comes no identity beyond the bland, invented one these folks have created for themselves.

Everything has a downside — you may be on camera for your entire life and never have any affection for those you call your family unit, but hey, at least you get a free bike at age 9.

Lowry's book serves as more of a blueprint than scripture, as moviemakers shift things around to suit their needs, including making the young hero considerably older and cramming in a romantic subplot.

Resemblances to too many other stories with similar trappings, especially visually, hurt what's meant to be a meaningful look at the world destroying itself from the inside out, but a forced conclusion to Lowry's open-ended work only proves Streep's point: "When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong."

Is "The Giver" a good movie?

No.

Should you watch it?

Yes.

Despite its poor presentation and lack of originality, it somehow stumbles upon the right tone and somehow succeeds in getting the audience to think and feel deeper than they did before buying a ticket.

It's not much, but it's a start.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“The Giver,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 94 minutes

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites and Alexander Skarsgård.

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.