Just finished The Giver. I love love loved this book when I was little, it was so well written and conceptualized, I was worried how they were going to translate it to film and mostly worried that that transition would flatten the experience and the ideas of the novel. Mostly it was good.
If you’re unfamiliar, get the fuck out. No, I’m kidding. If you’re unfamiliar, the book is about a world that’s basically the same dystopian set up as Equilibrium (the Christian Bale futuristic cop movie) if you’ve seen it: a central government has decided that emotions are too much of a burden for people, and that they complicate things and bring too much pain/conflict/sadness, etc. So everyone takes some kind of chemical/pharmaceutical supplement that suppresses their feelings and they live without them.
In this world, everyone has a community position they are assigned when they’re 18 that they do for the rest of their lives. During the ceremony where everyone is assigned their roles, our main character Jonas, is skipped over. At the end he is informed by Meryl Streep, the Chief Elder, that he has been selected to be the most important role in the town, Receiver, aka someone who hangs out with Jeff Bridges all day. Jeff Bridges is the current receiver which means he holds all the memories for the town so he can advise them if something happens they do not understand.
Nobody in the town knows/remembers/understands love, color, pain, loss, music, any of those things. So he starts transmitting them to Jonas, a process that is very high tech. You start by grabbing the other person’s wrists, and now voila! You’re transmitting! He gives him only good things first but then one day sort of accidentally (come on Jeff Bridges, get it together) gives him War. Jonas is so upset he runs out and says he never wants to go back.
Side note: I am writing this review today because I set a deadline to complete two before Saturday and I am trying to stick to it even though it feels trivial in light of what the world is today and all other days. It feels silly to post a movie review when people are being murdered in the streets for existing while being black BUT I was/am trying to keep going. But so while I was watching this I was definitely also thinking about social justice stuff and I was thinking how nice it would be if people could teach about privilege in this way that they transfer memories in the movie. Like if a person of color could just take a white person’s wrists and be like, “Let me show you” and then they download years of experienced oppression and injustice and then all the white people who are like, “just comply with the police!” would start crying and delete all their shitty posts and never vote for Trump and the world would be a better place, but it is fiction and the world is still horrible.
But he is in love with this girl Fiona and she makes him promise to go back if she stops taking her injections (he tells her to put some of her blood on an apple and put that under the sensor instead of her hand) after they kiss in a secret shrub triangle sculpture? There are these flying drone camera things that monitor everyone’s behavior and if citizens do something they’re not supposed to these really passive aggressive announcements come on through omnipresent speakers like, “Citizens are reminded they are not allowed to touch others outside of their family unit” stuff like that, so they have this little triangle behind a waterfall where they go and talk about stuff because it’s outside the view of the cameras, but later it turns out they can see in there too. Police states amirite???
Also going on: Jonas’ dad works in the birthing center (at least the gender roles are slightly more equal in this semi-apocalyptic dream world!) and there was a newborn that didn’t meet some requirement of citizenship they have of babies so he brought him home to live at their “dwelling” for a while (they don’t call them homes because there’s no love there!) Jonas’ dad looked at the baby’s assigned name (against the rules before placement) and started calling him by it in the house (Gabriel). Jonas got really attached to the baby because it had the same birthmark as him and he started transferring happy memories to it when it couldn’t sleep or was crying.
The other thing is that all the adults sort of speak in hushed tones about the ‘mistake’ that happened ten years before with the other receiver that was chosen and it seems like something really bad happened and later Jeff Bridges tells us that she (the first receiver) wanted to know everything really fast and then it was too much for her and she requested to be “released to Elsewhere” and everyone thinks Elsewhere is another place you can go to live but really they just kill you, even the babies that don’t blink enough or whatever.
Additional side note: the girl who was the previous receiver who didn’t work out was TAYLOR SWIFT. YES THAT’S RIGHT, A HOLOGRAM OF TAYLOR SWIFT PLAYS THE PIANO THEN IS SYMBOLICALLY MURDERED. So, that’s a weird thing about this movie.
Jonas has studied maps at the Giver’s place and he sees a boundary called ‘the wall of memory’ surrounding their community and he realizes that if he crosses it, all the memories will go back into public consciousness, because that’s how invisible lines work. One day he comes home and Gabriel is gone and the dad says he didn’t pass his citizenship test (he’s a fucking baby) so he was returned to the birthing center and will be released the next day. Jonas decides that he thinks murdering a baby is wrong so he decides to steal Gabriel and cross the barrier. He tries to convince Fiona to go with him but she is too basic (no she’s fine I love her) and says she will wait for him but she can’t go.
He high tails it out of the birthing center with Gabriel in some white plastic pod, (idk it’s like a baby holder or something) then embarks on this high speed chase WITH A BABY because the Elders have realized what he’s trying to do and go after him. Meryl Streep employs his friend Asher (Jonas, Asher and Fiona have been friends since they were born and Fiona seems cool but Asher has turned into kind of a narc throughout the movie) to capture him and bring him back (or kill him? The language was pretty vague and sinister). It seems like Asher is going to do this because he beams him up to the bottom of his jet but then he keeps flying in the direction of the barrier and drops Jonas (who has a baby strapped to him!!!!!!) into a waterfall. He has been doing jumps on a motorcycle with this baby and now they freefall 30 feet into open water?? I know this baby doesn’t even have the neck muscles to hold it’s own head up so how, how, is it surviving this dystopian X-games?
Anyway, they are on this journey, meanwhile, everyone else is in these plastic prison cells (Fiona, The Giver) getting ready to be ‘released’ and Meryl makes this speech about how people are weak and if given the chance to choose they choose wrong every time and you can’t trust them, blah blah but then Jonas crosses the barrier right as his dad is about to murder Fiona and then there’s this montage of “memories” that’s supposed to be meaningful and everyone starts crying and now their world is in color but it kind of just looks like a bunch of stock photos? I’m sure other people registered it as heartfelt.
Then, Jonas gets to this image that was the first memory the Giver transferred to him, a sled with a warm house at the bottom of the hill at least he thought it was a memory but now it’s real and he slides down and takes Gabriel to live there.
Overall pretty good forward movement, everyone did a good job, I liked the main dude (Brenton Thwaites- Brenton better Thwaites for a better role next time though) and Fiona (Odeya Rush-they are just handing these to me) and Jeff Bridges was even good, even though it will never excuse The Big Lebowski, and Meryl I liked, she had bangs in this which was a new look for her, still the same reserved authority as other roles (like The Devil Wears Prada and Doubt and Into the Woods and A Series of Unfortunate Events-kind of makes you think there’s only one type of role for older women huh?) but she does it well.
I liked the movie ok, probably never going to watch it again- it does make me want to reread the book, to see what they changed and left out. Engaging but kind of unmemorable.
2 out of 5 blood apples, would not masturbate again