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REVIEW: Divergent – Who Would You Choose to Be?

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Ready for another heroine trapped in a dystopian future? Divergent, based on the first book in Veronica Roth’s teen trilogy, follows Tris Proctor (Shailene Woodley), a young woman struggling to figure out her place in her family, and the city in which she lives: post-apocalyptic Chicago in the year 2164.

Proctor and her family are part of the faction Abnegation, which prides themselves on humility, with their roles in public service. The four other factions were Amity, Erudite, Candor and Dauntless. Each faction fulfills an important function within society. Amity are the happy farmers, Erudite are the scholars, Candor work in the law since they always tell the truth, and Dauntless are the warriors. Candidly, the Dauntless members come off like a gang of daredevil morons, showing off through ridiculous and unnecessary feats.  Photo: dailygrindhouse.com

Once a year, the teenagers are evaluated to determine which faction they are best suited for. The test will tell them where their natural aptitude lies. It sounds like a reasonable way to promote career planning. But of course, there is more to it than that.

Since Tris is a member of Abnegation, she is constantly reining herself in. She also observes her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), who seems to effortlessly follow his parents lead. The Proctor parents, Natalie and Andrew (played by Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn), raise the children with an austere but loving touch. Natalie has a better read on her children, while Andrew has a role in the government, which makes him a target as the tensions between the factions increase.

Tris eventually comes to the realization that she is Divergent- citizens who do not naturally conform to one faction’s behaviors- and has to keep this information quiet as a result. Tris then joins the Dauntless and finds herself in a grueling training program, lead by Eric (Jai Courtney) and Four, played by Theo James, best known to audiences as the infamous Kemal Pamuk from Downton Abbey. Along the way,Tris catches the attention of Jeanine (Kate Winslet) (an Erudite leader who takes a curious interest in her future), as well as a plot to destroy the Divergents- a plot that could severely impact her life as well as the lives of her family.

The filmmakers made some smart choices, focusing on the handful of key characters, and streamlining some of the plot, which keeps a spirited pace. Thankfully, there’s no real love triangle clogging up the plot. There is romance, but Tris’s character has more serious problems The costume color palette and textures help identify the different factions. Director Neil Burger includes breathtaking sequences that explain the allure of Dauntless, and shows a shadow of the former world.

Woodley, who had a star making turn as George Clooney’s rebellious daughter in The Descendants, brings that same intelligence and feistiness to the role of Tris. She comes off as a more sympathetic character than Katniss of The Hunger Games. She has similar resolve, but it’s balanced by her faction’s kind upbringing.

We reflect on our family history and tradition, but then step forward to create a life based on choices we make. Perhaps that is why this story is so popular - this is a challenge we all face.


  

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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Photo: dailygrindhouse.com