Amazingly, I never read The Giver in elementary school.
I never read The Giver in high school.
I never read The Giver in college.
I read The Giver about four years or so ago when my now-wife gave me the reaction you probably did reading the above sentences and shoved the book into my hands.
So I only had the one read-through and my initial impression of "yeah, kinda cool for junior's first dystopia" going into the film.
And my reaction to the film was:
"That was pretty good. Kinda cool for junior's first dystopia."
Okay, seriously, it was a really well-done film for what it was. I actually really liked how the film started in black-and-white and that color slowly seeped into it as it progressed.I didn't notice much of the changes - my wife had to remind me afterward that Jonas and his friends were 13 in the book and not 18, though that's understandable since burgeoning sexual awakening in minors is hard to sell for a PG movie.
There were only two major changes I noticed, one I loved and one I'm of two minds about. The latter is the always-disgustingly-awesome Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder, who is a much clearer villain than anything in the book. It creates some minor plot holes about what we know of the society, but does center the opposition nicely, so I'm still on the fence about it.
The thing I loved is that the ending is made so much clearer. Yes, you remain ambiguous about what happens to Jonas himself, but you at least see that it worked, that he succeeded in giving the memories back to the community. I remember reading the book and thinking the ending was just too ambiguous and random.
The other actors did well for what they were supposed to be. Jeff Bridges is Jeff Bridges and I love that, and if you do to this will be no different. I think this was probably the best adaptation that could have been made from this book and, while it's not perfect, I feel comfortable recommending it.