If you haven’t read it since childhood, you may remember Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel The Giver as one of the few books you were forced to read in English class that was actually enjoyable. While it’s well worth revisiting the fantastic book as an adult, you can also now watch an adaptation of the novel on Netflix. The adaptation isn’t nearly as good as the book, but it’s still interesting to watch if you’re a fan of the source material.
The 2014 sci-fi thriller The Giver is streaming on Netflix.
While The Giver was released in 2014 at the height of YA dystopian movies that were kickstarted by The Hunger Games, the 1993 novel was released long before these dystopian YA novels were even conceived. However, it was bad timing because it was overshadowed by its film peers, and the adaptation didn’t get quite as deep as the source material.
While that doesn’t mean the movie is totally without merits, it does lead one to wonder what the movie could have been if it was adapted outside of the sphere of influence created by The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and other movies of their ilk.
Interestingly, The Giver movie was something that Jeff Bridges was trying to make happen since shortly after the book was released. Bridges was interested in filming the movie in the mid-90s, and the script even came together by 1998.
The Giver, both the novel and the film, follows a society that suppresses emotion after an event known as the Ruin. Sexual desires are chemically repressed, babies are brought about through genetic engineering, and all memories of the past are held by one person known as the Reciever of Memory. The story follows Jonas, who is chosen as the next Reciever of Memory and must gradually receive memories of the past from his predecessor, the Giver.
As you might expect from a dystopian adaptation of a fantastic book, the film was able to put together a pretty impressive cast. Amongst the cast members of The Giver are Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift, and Emma Tremblay. Philip Noyce directed the film with a screenplay by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide.
Interestingly, The Giver movie was something that Jeff Bridges was trying to make happen since shortly after the book was released. Bridges was interested in filming the movie in the mid-90s, and the script even came together by 1998. However, there were several roadblocks to making it happen, including Warner Bros getting the rights in 2007.
The Giver is mostly a faithful adaptation of the book, retaining many of the main story beats, but it’s definitely a Hollywood take on the source material.
The rights of The Giver would eventually end up in the hands of The Weinstein Company and Walden Media. Bridges had hoped that his father would play the titular character, but this fell through when his father passed away in 1998. Bridges would, of course, end up playing the role instead, and he certainly does a good job, as you might expect.
Unfortunately, all of these roadblocks may have affected the final product, as The Giver just doesn’t live up to the book it is adapted from. The movie got mostly negative reviews, although it performed fine at the box office, grossing $67 million on a $25 million budget. Still, it’s not hard to imagine that a better version of this film exists out there somewhere.
The Giver is mostly a faithful adaptation of the book, retaining many of the main story beats, but it’s definitely a Hollywood take on the source material. Meaning there were some visual elements and choices made that don’t really mesh with the book. Namely, there is the fact that the ending of the book is fairly ambiguous, while the ending of the movie makes sure the audience knows exactly what happens.
Some roles from the book are also expanded, such as the Chief Elder and Rosemary. Since these two roles are played by Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift, respectively, it’s not super surprising that they were written with more screen time. Still, it is another way that The Giver movie strays from the book.
With that being said, it’s not an outright bad movie and might have even gotten a warmer reception if the expectations of the source material weren’t already so high. If you take The Giver movie for what it is, rather than expecting it to live up to the book, you’ll probably enjoy it for its solid production values and talented cast. So, if you don’t feel like reading the book and don’t mind a retelling that’s a bit watered down, you can head over to Netflix and watch the adaptation now.