It is usually considered better to give than to receive. In this 2014 film, the man known as the Giver must bestow on his new Receiver the entirety of humanity’s hurt, fear, and sorrow as well as its love, joy, and peace. An emotionless society, set apart (but never really explained), lives in safety, secure from all issues brought on by squeamish emotions or daily discomforts. Climate controlled, policed, and vaccinated from human emotion, this society employs the keeper of memory, Jeff Bridges, to provide the wisdom of the ages when necessary. He is the only one capable of empathy, also the only one who lies. He is the one who can see through the thin veneer of the “perfect” society, run by evil silver-fringed Meryl Streep who organizes the ceremony of selection which allows for each member of the community to be selected for his or her . Of course, when the memory is passed on and the younger, hotter Giver knows the truth and is brave enough to follow his convictions, he seeks to end the cycle of servitude and drone work by dispersing the kept memories of the ages to the whole community.
The sheer innocence of these characters makes world peace seem possible and the film feel implausible. Disappointing. Jeff Bridges, illustrious talent, co-produced this film. Perhaps this is why the film feels overly emotional and forced…he was too close close to it. Bridges wanted this film to be made. It meant something to him. He is the Giver, the mentor, the bleeding heart, the true hero.
Accepting this film as a faithful adaptation would require more than “precision of language.” The Lois Lowry novel, written post “1984,” the novel, but pre-Hunger Games and Diversion is the original Gattica. The book is beautiful, subtle, disturbing, intense, mysterious. Jonas is 13. He is gifted. His “stirrings” are only ever hinted at and not the essence of a budding romance but of puberty. There is no boundary. The memories, once given, cannot be retrieved, so the Giver shares once then loses them. Jonas becomes a Giver as he transfers memory to the child. The ending is illusive, questionable, fearful, precious, unresolved. The book is a Jackson “Lottery”-esque thinker left open-ended allowing the reader to imagine a hopeful ending despite the very few vague hints at hope.
Despite my disappointments at the simple-fixes of the film, I still liked it. I liked the characters, the transfer from black & white to color, the stories created, the happy ending. I liked that. It was too easy to fix the whole world. The transition to color was brief. The long slide down the banister was a hard to connect with moment, obviously meant to make more impact. Jonas has innocence and power. Idealistic. Taylor Swift’s overacted cameo makes her portray, well, a dramatic musician. Stretch.