Book Talk is a new feature here at Reading Books With Coffee, where I talk about bookish topics that aren’t book reviews!
Today…I am talking about The Giver as a movie! Before I get started on what I thought of the movie, I thought I’d explain a little about my thoughts on movie adaptations of books.
I’m definitely in the minority, because I’m big on movie first, book second. I hate going in with every last detail hanging over my head, and the last thing I want to do is go into expectations of how the movie should be. I’m pretty relaxed about changes made, because it’s something I have no control over, so why spend the movie talking about how this is different and that thing is all wrong, and why on earth would they do THAT?!?!?! (However, that’s my preference, and everybody should go into a movie adaptation however they want).
And now, there are going to be spoilers for both book and movie (but mostly the movie), so if you don’t want spoilers, this will be where you’ll want to stop reading.
When I first heard The Giver was being made into a movie, I was surprised, curious, happy and nervous. I loved the book as a kid, and it held up pretty well when I re-read it as an adult a couple of years ago (see my review here).
There are definitely changes- the two biggest being the characters are several years older in the movie than they are in the book, and Fiona and Asher, who are BFF’s with Jonas, have different jobs.
Let’s start with the characters being a few years older- this really worked for me, because it made the story much more believable. Being the one person who has ALL the memories is not an easy job, and it’s one that has to take its toll. After re-reading the book this week- after seeing the movie, of course- it’s actually hard to believe that an 11-year-old would be able to handle the things that Jonas has to deal with. And it’s no wonder that the previous Receiver-In-Training asked to be released. I felt like everything explored in the book was explored differently (in a good way) because the characters were older. Like Jonas and Fiona- there are hints of romance there (which I did see in the book) but feelings of romantic love were better suited with 16-year-olds. And I felt like everything Jonas learns about his community and his reaction towards what they did, and what things used to be like were there but much more subtle than they were in the book.
It’s not as jarring as it was in the book, and a lot of that has to do with Jonas being older. Older, movie Jonas experiences things very differently than younger, book Jonas, and I found that the story works really well no matter how old the character is.
As for Fiona and Asher having different jobs- it works, given how everything unfolds, especially in Asher’s case. Speaking of Asher and Fiona, I liked that Fiona had a bigger in the movie than she did in the book, and that you do see how her relationship with Jonas changes over the course of the book. She did seem open to what he had to say, and that she was willing to help him, even if it meant she would get into massive trouble. We’re talking Release to Elsewhere trouble. Asher, on the other hand…I just didn’t love movie Asher at all. It was like he had some issues with Jonas, and I couldn’t help but wonder what his deal was. However, Jonas does change, because he knows of things like love and war. I wonder if Asher didn’t like the changes he saw in Jonas, and was acting differently because he felt like he was losing Jonas.
I LOVED that part of the movie is in black-and-white, and that you get random splashes of color throughout the beginning part of the movie…and that it’s black-and-white until Jonas starts receiving memories from Giver. Going from black-and-white to color really added to what was going on, and it highlights what this society is missing out on when they erased memories. It adds to the feeling that this society is not as perfect as it seems.
I actually loved seeing Jonas react to the different memories he received, and what he experiences really changes his relationships with people- particularly his friends and family. I loved the scene where he showed Fiona what sledding was like, and I love that we get those moments.
His parents were colder than I remembered, and I wished that we had that one scene in the book, where it’s dinner and his sister and parents are sharing their feelings, and Jonas knows that they aren’t experiencing true emotion. That scene in particular stands out as one that highlights how isolated Jonas is becoming as the Receiver, and how isolating of a job it is. We sort of get that throughout the movie, particularly with the Giver living so far apart from the community. And I think Jonas’ changing relationship with Asher shows that as well. It did seem to be very subtle, and shows up in other ways, but part of me still wishes that we had more of that.
The only other thing I didn’t like was that Rosemary wasn’t a big part of the movie. You get the basics of her story, but our real introduction to her came at a weird time, and I felt like her story really influenced the selection of future Receivers. It’s a shame that you don’t really see how much has changed in the last 10 years as far as what it means to be a Receiver, and why certain rules were in place. Especially since Taylor Swift seemed like an AWESOME Rosemary.
Actually, I thought the movie was cast really well! Jeff Bridges really stood out as the Giver, and I can’t imagine anyone else in that role- and I can honestly say that about ALL of the actors cast. Meryl Streep was awesome, and Odeya Rush, who plays Fiona, and Brenton Thwaites, who plays Jonas were also great choices. There was something so sweet about Odeya as Fiona, and I felt like Brenton brought a sense of joy and wonder to receiving the memories.
Oh, the memories! One of my favorite scenes of the entire movie was when you saw the memories come back to this community. You don’t get it in the book, where I had never thought about what happened to them when they had to deal with the memories. But I LOVE that they included it in the movie.
And one other interesting thing is this scene between Giver and the Chief Elder, where Giver is telling the Chief Elder that he knows she feel’s Rosemary’s loss. Which I thought hinted that there was something between Giver and Chief Elder. It didn’t go any further than that, but it was interesting because it added something to their backstory.
Overall, I thought it was a great adaptation, especially given that I only had a couple of issues with the movie. It has everything awesome about the book, and it felt like it was made with a lot of care to the original story. It really is The Giver brought to life, and that was the one thing I kept thinking during the movie.
I’ve only seen one review of the movie, which I like (and agree with very much).
And, of course, the two official trailers, below. Enjoy!
Trailer #1 (All in color):
Trailer #2 (With the black-and-white scenes):