Review Science/fiction drama
THE GIVER (TBA)
Opens August 21
The story: In a future world, people are assigned their jobs and purposes when they turn 16.
Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is singled out to be the receiver of memories from The Giver (Jeff Bridges) by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep). The more Jonas learns, the more he begins to question everything around him as his relationships with his friends (Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan) and assigned family (Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard) change forever. Based on the 1993 young adult novel of the same name by Lois Lowry.
One is starting to detect a template for young adult dystopian dramas such as The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014).
In each, there is a coming-of-age ceremony in which the teenage protagonist is marked out as special. Because of that special status, he comes to learn that the world he lives in is a lie.
And he will be the one to bring down the house of cards.
Unlike The Hunger Games and Divergent, the protagonist in The Giver is male.
Fresh-faced Australian actor Thwaites is on the cusp of breaking out after turns in horror flick Oculus (2013) and the fantasy Maleficent (2014).
He is engaging as Jonas, a sensitive character who is overwhelmed by knowledge in a film with more of an arthouse veneer than the action-packed The Hunger Games and Divergent.
Colour and sound are carefully calibrated. As he learns about them from The Giver, the film bursts into blooms of colour and music. Even concepts such as home and love have to be learnt and he finds himself falling for his friend Fiona.
Teenage hormones will get the better of an authoritarian society every time.
The supporting line-up featuring veteran actors Streep and Bridges emanate authority and gravitas.
But singer Taylor Swift is forgettable in a small role as the former receiver of memories.
Holmes' role as Jonas' assigned "mother" has real-life resonance: One cannot help but wonder if this what what it felt like for her when she had to live under the shadow of Scientology as Tom Cruise's wife. Her character believes unquestioningly in the system and places it first before everything and everyone else.
Several key questions remain unanswered in the film, including what role exactly the receiver is supposed to play. And the mission that Jonas has to go on seems like a long shot at best with no clear logic underlying it.
But despite some issues, The Giver is an offering that is still worth receiving.
This article was first published on August 20, 2014.
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