In the dystopian future of the movie adaptation of bestselling YA novel Divergent, each person belongs to one of five personality-based factions. Each faction plays a specific role in society, and members dress and behave the same way. The setup is much like a classic American high school flick: Dauntless (rebels) brawl and defend in all black and tattoos; Amity (nice kids) hug things out in sunny hobbit garb, Erudite (nerds) do clever people things in uptight navy; Candor (precocious indie kids) “tell it like it is” in black and white (ugh, of course). Finally, Abnegation (losers) govern while wearing gray rags.
But poor Tris (Shailene Woodley) doesn’t fit in—she’s Divergent! And it’s soooo hard. Not only does she have to toughen up real quick to fit in her chosen faction, Dauntless, she also has to turn against her Abnegation family. Everyone who knows her true identity keeps hissing at her to keep her mouth shut about it, but she can’t resist spilling the beans to sexy faction-mate Four (Theo James) as their sexual tension escalates.
There’s nothing wrong at all with the plot, but the story is patronizingly told. Music swells at every opportunity in order to induce the correct emotion on cue, and song lyrics literally spell out how the protagonists are feeling. The dialog is awkward (characters actually say “yeah” to affirm already Captain Obvious-y statements!). We’re having trouble believing an audience of internet-savvy tweens can’t figure it all out by themselves. Still, it’s worth a watch, if only to smile at the unintentional humor. Woodley is definitely great to watch—her face and physicality subtly demonstrate great range, a quality that the more experienced members of the cast, like Fitz from Scandal and Kate Winslet, failed to reveal.