Friday, August 15, 2014

The Giver; I don't want to spoil the party but ...


I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. The Giver, out in theaters today, may be a good movie, but if you're looking for the movie to be true to the book, this probably isn't it  Our first clue that the film would twist Lois Lowry's story was the casting of twenty-something Brenton Thwaites as the twelve year old Jonas. In the movie Jonas has been aged to sixteen and those four years make all the difference. I bitched about that difference a year ago - as did many readers. Today Kevin Pollan writes about that difference in The Daily Beast ...

But aging Jonas also has the perhaps unintended effect of making his naiveté seem slightly imbecilic. Jonas is our window into this community where no one ever questions why everyone and everything is the same, and where everyone isn’t just complacent in their flatlined existence, but embraces it. Though none of the characters questions this state of being, it’s easier for us to understand why a 12-year-old never would. When a 16-year-old takes on that wide-eyed, touched-for-the-very-first-time role, it all comes off as a tad more…juvenile. Perhaps even silly.
Your heart bleeds for a 12-year-old who sulks after discovering the cruel realities of humanity. When it’s a 16-year-old, you can’t help but think, “Man up.”
But it's more than that, of course. In my post last August I talked about the whole notion of trying to cash in on The Hunger Games/Divergent action train, quoting Hilary Busis at Entertainment Weekly. 
"This casting also indicates that the screen Giver may try to ape The Hunger Games and co. by inserting unnecessary action setpieces that allow Jonas to play a Katniss-style badass hero. If that happens, The Giver will no longer be a gentle tale that’s more parable than plot-driven narrative; instead, it’ll transform into a generic adventure story, an imitation of the book’s own imitators."
While Busis makes an impassioned case, saying "an interpretation that warps and disregards the core of Lowry’s masterpiece is worse than no movie at all" that seems to be exactly what happened. 


In addition to the addition of plenty of action, Jonas' crush or feeling of 'stirrings' for Fiona have been morphed into a full-blown romance, clearly a sexualization of the character designed to make the book Hollywood-friendly. And that's something Lowry expressly objected to. The author told Jessica Gross in her interview in The New York Times 
"I remember seeing the costume designs for the female lead, Fiona[Odeya Rush] — in the book she’s 12, and in the movie she’s 16. I advised them that some of the costumes were too sexy. And so the hem was dropped a little bit. I asked them: “Please don’t turn this into a teenage romance.”
Which of course, they did. A teenage romance with plenty of adrenaline-fueled action which may make for a good, or even a fantastic film. Just don't be disappointed if it's not the same 'film' you saw in your head when you read the book. As the author herself revealed in her new forward to the book - 
"A movie, by its nature, puts it all out there, makes it visual. It's what I love about film, actually: the composition of each scene, the lighting, the color... or lack of color. But film must incorporate details that a reader might have pictured in another way. A costume designer decided what little Gabriel -- and all the other infants in the Nurturing Center -- wear. Maybe you had dressed them differently in your mind. A set designer created the plans for the dwellings in which Jonas and Fiona and all the other members of the community live. If you imagined a different kind of dwelling, as I did, then you have to adjust your thinking. The landscape through which Jonas travels with the kidnapped baby is not the landscape I saw inside my head; the cinematographer gives us something vaster, more magnificent, and infinitely more hostile to a desperate boy trying to save an infant and the whole world.
The important thing is that a film doesn't obliterate a book. The movie is here now. But the book hasn't gone away. It has simply grown up, grown larger, and begun to glisten in a new way."
It seems to me that you and I will have to decide for ourselves whether The Giver glistens. If you head out to the theatre this weekend, I'd love to hear if it glistens for you.






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