Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book vs. Movie- The Giver

I think this was the first book we read in school that I actually liked. Mr. Goodrich [RIP- he didn't deserve to go like he did] taught us in 8th grade.

The movie didn't exist back then, but we watched "Fahrenheit 451" in class because it had a similar feel. Since then, even the insinuation of burning books drives me up the wall... we just can't not have books and destroying precious literature should be considered a crime.

I wouldn't quite use that distinction to describe this film adaptation, but considering how many years I'd waited for this movie to happen... well, I'll go into that later.

The Book
"The Giver" is about a utopian community ruled in sameness where everything is controlled. Marriages are assigned, each family unit is given two children- one boy and one girl. Jobs are chosen for people by a committee of elders. There is no pain, no feelings and no color.

Our protagonist, Jonas, is selected for a very special position in the community. From the previous person at this position (the titular character), he receives all the memories of the past. With them, he will gain the wisdom required to advise the community in situations outside of their experience.
He not only learns about snow and sunshine, but also about broken bones, war, and starvation. But it's the memories of love that start to convince him that things should be different.

Then the real breaking point: he learns that the tradition of Release in community (which extends to inadequate babies, the elderly and rule-breakers with the three transgressions) equates to murder.
And the baby that his father had been giving extra nurturing, whom he'd shared memories with to help him sleep, is going to be Released.

Lois Lowry wrote 3 other books that were considered to be Companion books to this one.
Gathering Blue features a more primitive dystopian society. The protagonist, Kira, was nearly cast out because her twisted deformed leg makes it impossible for her to contribute. But because she's a gifted weaver, the committee in charge tasks her with the restoration of a robe. Within its design, it tells stories of the past.
Messenger brings back Kira and Jonas [although in another capacity in a different society] but stars Kira's childhood friend Matty.
Son is not only a companion, but also serves as a sequel to "The Giver." Bringing back the previous characters, but also telling someone else's story. And she has a special connection to Gabriel, the baby Jonas took with him.

"Gathering Blue" I enjoyed as well, although not nearly as much as "The Giver." The other books... they have their ups and downs. "Son" started out really interesting, taking us back to the world of The Giver from the perspective of another character. But the middle part of the book dragged and the ultimate resolution took a little too long to... resolve.

"The Giver" was great because it introduced a lot of interesting concepts. What would you have to give up if you wanted a perfect society? Sameness had to take the place of differences. Because differences led to ugly emotions like envy and greed and these things led to conflict and war... you get the picture.
But you also give up good things like love... yeah, no matter how perfect the concept is, all utopias eventually fail.

The Movie
More Spoilers
First of all, I'm so glad I didn't opt to spend 7 bucks on a movie ticket.
Within the first three minutes, I already had a dozen complaints. I knew coming in that while the main story remained the same, they changed practically ALL the details.
And within the first 10 minutes we were at the Ceremony of 12... and I knew if I had a notepad in front of me, I'd probably have over 100 grievances written down by the end of the movie. Enough to write a college-level essay.
Considering how this is my favorite book ever... I still might do that... it's more likely to come to fruition than my own "Twilight" screenplay [which would be truer to the book and erase all the cringe-worthy moments in the movie].

We begin with Jonas narrating, practically, the back cover of the book. In retrospect, it could have been Jonas as he was at the end of the book narrating... but at this point, I was just thinking "he doesn't know any of this" so it felt really out of place.
At least in the Hunger Games and Divergent, everyone knew that their society was designed as they were because of something in the past. The people in Jonas's community were bred in ignorance... maybe that's what separates a utopia from a dystopia.

When I read the book, The Giver was the only person who wasn't ignorant. That knew everything about the community, but about the past before anyone remembers. The Chief Elder only knew that the Receiver of Memory had wisdom to assist the Elders in situations outside of their experience.
But apparently, in the movie, the Chief Elder knows a little more than the book led us to believe. In fact, she comes off as a freaking control freak... but unlike Jeanine and President Snow, she genuinely seems afraid of the return of conflict. It's not just an ego trip.
This doesn't mean I didn't want to punch Meryl Streep in the face through the majority of the movie... her and Katie Holmes.

Katie Holmes plays Jonas's mom, but she's involved in the Law Enforcement. She came off as a bitch with a stick up her butt. I get the "precision of language" is a big deal in the community, but she told Jonas half a dozen times throughout the movie. Those were the majority of her lines. Sure, she's a bit more strict than Jonas's father, but I didn't think the disparity between the two was that strong.

My personal nitpick- Jonas didn't have pale blue eyes. At least Jeff Bridges and Taylor Swift (who played the previous Receiver, Rosemary) had blue eyes. The capacity to see/hear beyond, in the movie, was denoted to a fucking BIRTHMARK. I mean, how difficult was it to cast an actor with pale blue eyes? Or get him contacts?

That aside... Brenton Thewlis did do the character justice in every other way possible. He was eager. He was passionate. Things that really showed in the more dramatic stages of the story.
And Jeff Bridges... he was the reason this movie got made at all. Other than the fact his beard wasn't as long as the dude on the cover of the book, he filled this role so well. I was really impressed with him... that's never happened before :P not for me.

Another nitpick... Asher seemed to get a stick up his butt halfway through the movie. After he's assigned to be a drone pilot [instead of Assistant Recreation Director], his carefree nature vanished. He became a stickler for the rules.
I get that they needed him to fill a role for later in the story, but still... in the book, he received the "precision of language" lecture so many times. Jonas was the one who chose his words more carefully [so Katie Holmes having to chastise him early in the movie really annoyed me because in the book he freaking knew better].

I like the idea that Jonas, Asher and Fiona were friends growing up. I also kinda liked what they did with Fiona's character, how they kinda pushed the love interest requirement in most YA adaptations, and how she became integral to the end of the story.

People were in an uproar about Taylor Swift being cast as Rosemary... her total movie screen time was ONLY A MINUTE... the haters need to get over it or not watch at all. You're better off reading the book anyway. [And I thought she rocked however little screen time she had- it was more than we got from the character in the book since she'd been dead for 10 years and as Katie Holmes said "we do not speak of it"].

On the one hand, I get why they showed Jonas showing Fiona and his sister Lily the things he'd been doing in the memories. But on the other, I hated that they had to create a physical antagonist in the movie. The enemy is sameness- the way the society is run because, as The Giver said in the book, "They know nothing."
But then again, I nit-picked at the fact James, Victoria and Laurent were alluded to throughout "Twilight" when they weren't in the book until they showed up at the Cullens' baseball game. A minor nitpick, but I was a little annoyed about it :shrug:

When it came to the action-packed third act of the movie, I actually thought it was well done. Once we got past the realm that was covered in the book. Once Jonas left, they were making stuff up as they went. Because we didn't know what was going on in the community after he left. And I think by that point I was letting go of taking everything apart... I was more concerned about what was going to happen to the characters... I knew Jonas and Gabriel would survive, but the others back in the community... there was no way of knowing.

I liked the twist at the end, which may or may not have been The Giver's intention in the book. Supposedly, he helped Jonas get away so he could restore the memories to the community to make it up to Rosemary and what he put her through with the training.

And seeing how all the memories returned at the end... it was worth all the cringe-worthy moments that led up to it. Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes finally saw the error of their ways... the fact that they seemed to be in cahoots throughout the movie was particularly annoying. Like she cared more for following the rules than her own family. Oh right, families don't care about each other because they're not even related through blood.


As an adaptation, only 15% of it was viable in my view. Everything else just had me wanting to kick ass and take names.
As a stand-alone movie, I guess it was passable. I'm not from that school of thought. Especially not with this movie because I've known this story for 15 years.

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