I Wanna Give Back “The Giver”: Top Ten Feelings About A Truly Godawful Cinematic Experience

Y’all probs read The Giver in middle school and have strong affectionate feelings for it, and perhaps you were even eagerly anticipating the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of this tender tale. Perhaps you re-read The Giver last week so that you’d be fresh and prepared for the movie, as I did, and then perhaps you saw the movie, as I did, and then perhaps you were like THAT WAS THE WORST! As I did.

You know in school how sometimes you’d watch these movie adaptations of a book you were reading, but it wasn’t like a big-screen adaptation and instead it was a low-budget production with shitty sets and unknown actors produced far far away from Hollywood? At times, this felt like that, which was confusing ’cause the trailer got me really excited!

This post is CHOCK-FULL OF SPOILERS, but trust me, I’m doing you a favor by making the movie less appealing.

1. Stop Trying To Make Jonas and Fiona Happen, It’s Not Gonna Happen


Oh wow, that new lotion really does make your hands as soft as the underside of a baby pig!

In the book, Jonas is a 12-year-old kid who has a tender dream about his friend Fiona, who’s the only female character his age in the book with more than five lines. That’s when Jonas gets put on special pills to stop the “Stirrings,” which is YA code for “boners.” Somehow the producers of the film, undoubtedly influenced by the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle and pandering to a hypothetical audience who can’t handle a film void of teen-on-teen love, decided to make Jonas 18 years old and make Fiona a legit love interest, a thing she wasn’t at all in the book. She also becomes a key figure in his decision to take a stand against The Elders! But the actors playing Jonas and Fiona have about as much chemistry as a cardboard box and another cardboard box. Plus this kid doesn’t need a girl to motivate him to want to CHANGE THE WORLD. He wants to change the world because the world he lives in kills babies and doesn’t believe in love!

Plus, the actor playing Jonas is 25! 25! The kid was supposed to be 12, y’all. 12. It makes way more sense as a movie when the guy is 12, especially since you read it when you were 12 and probably related. It was supposed to be like this:

 2. Why Was Asher Such a Butthole


Pretty sure he’s talking about same-sex marriage

In the book, Asher’s a cocky and hilarious troublemaker sidekick you imagine being something like Rider Strong in Boy Meets World, but the guy they picked for the movie seems like he’s gonna be Ted from Queer as Folk when he grows up. Also now he’s a drone pilot? What?

3. Was That Actual Stock Footage?



Jonas’s reception of all the world’s memories was another part of the book I was curious to see translated to film ’cause it had serious Cheese potential, and overcoming that potential would undoubtedly require imagination and innovation and would definitely be really powerful and awesome. I mean, the kid literally remembers babies crying and sledding down a hill on a snowy day and shit. They’d have to get really creative to not make those parts feel like a Kodak commercial and guess what THOSE PARTS FELT EXACTLY LIKE A KODAK COMMERCIAL. Mother washing a baby in a bucket! Children laughing in the grass! Animals playing in nature! Another baby being born! A joyous wedding in India full of Love and Laughter! More birthing of babies! None of it felt authentic, like actual human life, it felt like a performance of human life interspliced with a bunch of news footage. (It was also curious that whereas the humans in his flashbacks were mostly of color, there was only one person of color in the entire Community?)

If you saw the movie, please share your favorite flashback memory in the comments. Don’t pick “cheetah,” that’s too easy.

Y’all, by the time they got The Berlin Wall and Tianemen Square up in there, our entire theater was in stitches FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS.

4. Seriously It Got So Bad It Was Funny


Play me the one about that cheerleader slut who stole your boyfriend with her short-shorts

Speaking of the entire theater laughing — this happened a lot. This happened when Jeff Bridges gave speeches about love, this happened when Jonas approached some nature situation in which the mountains in the background appeared to have been lifted from the The Giver diorama you made in seventh grade. Then Taylor Swift showed up as a piano-playing hologram with a bad wig and it officially became a comedy.

5. Pop Goes The Color


Why yes, I do like Manic Panic, why do you ask?

*** This seems to be one thing about the movie that I hated but most book fans actually liked a lot, so what do I know***

There’s no color in The Community because it’s post-racial. Just kidding! “Post-racial” isn’t a real thing, kiddos, but you know what is a real thing**? THE SAMENESS. And The Sameness is one of many techniques employed by The Community to avoid conflict and envy. Everybody is the same and everything is the same and so there is no color, which we learn when Jonas is GIVEN THE MEMORY OF COLOR. Like eating a Starburst backwards.

How would the movie make this work? I imagined all sets and costumes being the same color, perhaps, or some other imaginative movie wizardry that enables complicated dystopian sci-fi you can barely visualize in your own brain come to life in a NEW and THRILLING way. But dude just pressed “convert to grayscale.”

I realize I’m in the minority for decrying the choice to represent the Sameness with black and white — fans freaked out when the first trailer aired because even the black-and-white film parts were in color for the trailer. Fans felt that black and white was the only way to do it. But the many shades of grey used in “black and white” film are also colors, so in my opinion they needed to really think outside of the box to figure out what a world truly without color would look like and how to convey that onscreen.

Anyhow, as Jonas slowly begins to see color, we see the little color spots here and there, a la Pleasantville, but it actually didn’t remind me of Pleasantville at all, it reminded me of those terrible posters on the ceiling at my dentists’ office featuring dalmatians with neon spots imploring me to Dare To Be Different.

this isn't a screenshot from the movie but really it might as well be

this isn’t a screenshot from the movie but really it might as well be

6. Droning



The SUSPENSEFUL CHASE SCENE at the end felt stupid, as did The Chief Elder’s entire situation, really. Why did you leave poor Eric Northman there with his Death Needle thinking the longest thoughts in the history of thinking, like this was the second-to-last scene of Criminal Minds? (You know, the one where they inevitably interrupt the serial killer’s next kill.) Why was there no transition from climate to climate for Jonas? How did that baby become such a trooper? Why hadn’t Meryl Streep bothered to watch all that footage of Jonas scampering around breaking the rules until that day when she seems to have little else going on besides making weird allusions to past dalliances with The Giver? The story stayed faithful to its own world, at least, pretty much up until the end. Then he was chased by a talking drone and everybody died inside.



Anybody got some Tums?

This movie spoils everything it touches, even Meryl Streep, who does her damndest with really terrible material. At times I suspected that she literally phoned it in — like maybe was never actually on a set with any of the other actors. Plus she had the worst bangs in the history of bangs. It was so weird. Jeff Bridges, who apparently spent 18 years trying to get this film to the screen, gave a pretty solid performance, but sometimes he was just bungling around being grumpy like his first stop after getting booted from Middle Earth was the caftan sale and they didn’t have his favorite caftan on sale.

8. Who are the people on this poster


I’ve been driving by this billboard for what feels like my entire life and now that I’ve seen the film I’m even more confused why an Off-Brand Anna Kendrick seems to be standing in for whatever actress played Fiona and why The Giver looks like Stephen Dunn. Seriously he looks exactly like Stephen Dunn!

9. Two Thumbs Up For Gabe The Babe, Though

Can I borrow your blowdryer

Can I borrow your blowdryer

The baby who played the baby was the best baby I’ve ever seen since the E-Trade Baby. That kid was on point, I hope he gets nominated for an Oscar.

10. Also: Nice Work, Alexander Skarsgård

No, I will not be singing "On My Own" this evening so please stop asking

No, I will not be singing “On My Own” this evening so please stop asking

My boyfriend Eric Northman gave a solid and appropriate performance as a naive baby-killer married to Joey Potter!

In conclusion, The Giver was kinda crummy. If you saw it I’m sure you have a million additional complaints about things that were better in the book than in the movie (as do I, my friends, as do I), and boy would I love to talk about them! Let’s chat.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3184 articles for us.


  1. Someday I want to write an article titled Working for an INGO Ruined Dystopias but I think that’s been summed up in like, two gifs and a cat macro by tumblr.

  2. Never in a million years will I watch this movie, BUT the crazy amounts of advertising for it showed me that I somehow missed the other books in the series. Read them last week and love Lois Lowry even more than I did in 7th grade! Is anyone else obsessed with Messenger?

    • i didn’t really dig gathering blue when i read it a few years ago, so i’ve been bad and not gotten around to the following two. i keep meaning to fix that, though–your obsession with messenger is good encouragement!

    • Read them all about a year ago when I realized it had become a series. Love Lois Lowry!

      Oh…gawd…does this mean they are probably going to make this into a movie series? Ugh…

      • I’m so conflicted on the whole idea of her books becoming movies- it’s like I’m happy for her because its great to see authors I love have some financial success but also devastated that some kids might just see the ruined movie versions of the books and never read the beautiful, poignant, perfect books themselves. Sigh.

  3. I refuse to watch this movie, on principle. Jonas is supposed to be 12 years old. TWELVE. The fact that they aged him so they could force in some stupid love story makes me irrationally angry. Also it looks like the tried to make it way more of an action movie than it should’ve been? Either way, ew.

  4. By Jeff Daniels did you possibly mean Jeff Bridges? Pretty sure the other guy was a little busy filming Dumb and Dumber To, sure to be a cinematic masterpiece in comparison to this.

  5. I knew it was going to be bad because no joy can come from books that changed my childhood being turned into DYSTOPIC MOVIES!!! and yet, my heart is still mildly broken. Why must you, Hollywood. Why.

  6. SO MANY THOUGHTS RIESE but mostly these two

    1. was that baby made of titanium??? how did that baby survive any of the things it did?????? at so many points in this film, that baby as a dead baby, there was no surviving for that baby AND YET
    2. apparently the majority of human memory is from 2008-2014, nothing else, sorry, nope. and the most precious of human memories is apparently youtube videos. christ on a stick

    • A friend of mine in NY went to see this and called me (I live in The Hague) just to tell me that she’s shocked there wasn’t a cat video somewhere in there, so your second point just made chuckle.

      Thankful for this review; now I can avoid this when it hits The Netherlands.

    • that baby has magical powers, like maybe it’s a tiny heater, like maybe the baby is not a baby but a space heater? it’s just that it was very cold there for some time.

  7. Thank you for saving me from this which sounds like exactly what I thought it would be but that I probably would have seen anyway because Jeff Bridges.

  8. Oh wow I’m pretty sure I did actually make a diorama of The Giver in 7th grade, so now I’m just gonna go dig around in my parent’s basement til I find it rather than wasting $10 on this movie!

    That Giver Picture Book thing is really cool, though.

  9. This movie sounds awful, ridiculously awful.

    One thing about the fact that people of colour suddenly appear via memories though: maybe they were trying to underline a common hypothesis about Jonas’s world.
    Fiona has red hair, and the Giver/the Receiver both have bue eyes, so Sameness is probably not post-racial ‘ambiguity’ but really White White Everybody White, which is an extremely creepy aspect of the book (has there been genocide? community splits according to colour very long ago? something worse?)

    • yeah i thought maybe this is like, “everyone is white” creepy post-genocide dystopia, but randomly there was this one black nurturer! i don’t even remember if she had lines or not but we all noticed she was there because everyone else was white. so idk what they were going for really.

    • I was thinking something along the same lines! I just finished rereading the book and I was wondering if there were any POC. But maybe since they got rid of injustice in the community, they got rid of race (not killing, but probably genetic altercations since it’s in the future. And they’re definitely capable of that, considering what they’ve done with climate & the landscape. And y’know, the Sameness). I’m guessing that since there’s no color, no one noticed that they probably have the same skin color.

  10. One of my favorite books growing up and I haven’t made it out to see the movie yet. Now I can go in with low expectations, at least? Meow.

  11. Quick and easy procedure to follow when trying to determine whether or not a movie adaptation of a book will be good:

    a) Is it The Hours?
    Yes – Yes
    No – No

    All movie adaptations are terrible and inaccurate.

    • It once took my roommate and I 2.5 hours to get through the first 25 minutes of The Hunger Games movie because I paused it to explain why it was wrong every time it was wrong.

    • I have pneumonia and it hurts to laugh. You just almost killed me. It was worth it. This is exactly how I feel about this topic.

  12. Well, I clearly won’t watch this movie, but I had somehow completely forgotten about the book (even though it was one of my favorites when I was younger) and this article
    a) reminded me it existed
    b) made me want to find my copy and read it again.

  13. “Stirrings,” which is YA code for “boners.”
    This is perfect.

    I was already pretty dead set on not seeing this movie, as The Giver was one of, I’d say, my top 5 favorite books as a kid, and your review Riese just cements that commitment.

  14. I am not paying money to see this movie. I was initially excited when I heard they were making a movie, less so when they cast Taylor Swift and a 22-year-old Jonas. I’ll probably watch it online after it comes out on DVD just for the giggles. It almost seems like it’s so bad it’s good.

  15. SHEEP, all of you. Of the “I can read a book and read this one so I automatically hate the movie, just so you can say you read a book. Surprise, most of you are female. Watch this movie with an open mind, although it may be most of you are too shallow to get beyond the teen couple. This movie provokes thought and introspection, its full of ideas beautifully laid out by brilliant acting and directing. Jeff effing Bridges and Meryl Streep,not to mention the new comers. Get over yourself,free yourself from the burden of trying to be the smartest gal in the room, because its not happening. Cheers, you foolish, shallow and thoughtless movie hating dingalings.

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