Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Giver [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Giver [2014] (directed by Phillip Noyce, screenplay by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide, based on the novel by Lois Lowry [IMDb]) plays like a somewhat updated and somewhat softened (suburbanized) version of George Orwell's 1984: Human attempts at "Climate Control" have instead totally devastated world.  A remnant of civilization has survived by, in fact, radically "doubling down" on this program of "Precision" and "Control" to the point that truly everything in the remnant society from language to even perception has come to be controlled by a self-perpetuating group of "experts" that specially breeds and forms its successors.  Essentially, society has become a well-manicured "ant-hill" where every "ant" knows (and is actually quite content in) his/her place.

And it doesn't necessarily look bad.  All looks quite clean and in order in society (everybody appears to do his/her job, and apparently does said job _well_).  It's just that everything is also quite bland.  All members of the society are required to take medications assigned to them each day, which among other things eliminate even the perception of color.  So we are presented with a society living in what looks like a very well-manicured suburb, but everything is grey (think here of Pleasantville [1998]).

Growing-up in this society are Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites) and his friends Fiona (played by Odeya Rush) and Asher (played by Cameron Monaghan) who are finishing their equivalent of their "high school years" and are about to be "sorted" (think here of the recent film Divergent [2014]).

The annual "sorting ceremony" of "graduates" both into and out of life is quite dramatic.  The somewhat "ancient looking" if also somewhat "wise-looking" _Matriarchical_ (think here interestingly of the recent children's animated film Mars Needs Moms [2011]) Chief Elder (played by Meryl Streep in a truly unforgettable whig) arrives _remotely_ to the ceremony in the form of a GIGANTIC HOLOGRAM (is she even alive??).  And at the ceremony, the young approaching maturity are "given their tasks" (and assigned specialized training ... think of both university and of "ants" again), the old arriving at retirement age are "released to elsewhere" (wherever "elsewhere" may be ...).  

At the ceremony, all are the young approaching maturity are given their tasks ... Fiona is assigned to essentially nursing school/child care training, Asher to military flight training (practical/functional fields...).  Only Jonas doesn't seem to be assigned initially to anything.

Oh dear, what does that mean? (shades of Divergent [2014] again).   Actually, in the society at hand, having not been selected for any of the more immediately practical/functional tasks is not necessarily a bad thing: Jason's been chosen for a far more _special task_.  Told that he's been determined to have the aptitude "to see beyond," he's assigned to specialized training to become a "receiver of memory" (societal memory) under the special tutelage of the current "Receiver of Memory" (played by Jeff Bridges) who then becomes "The Giver" of such Memory to Jonas. 

Make no mistake, in a totalitarian society (and that is what is being portrayed here), Jonas' is an appointment to an elite position.  As a "receiver of memory" in training, Jonas is introduced to memory of that which existed BEFORE the (totalitarian) society came into being.  Thus he is INTRODUCED by "The Giver" to such experiences as TASTE, COLOR, EMOTION including PAIN.  And here Jonas comes to the crossroads that the previous "Receiver of Memory" ("The Giver" training him) arrived at when he was being prepared for his position ... should a society perhaps "safe" and in a sense "perfect" be allowed to continue if the cost of its continued existence is SO HIGH.  Jason's mentor had clearly proven to frightened/weak to change things.  But Jason doesn't have to choose the same way as his mentor ("The Giver") did ...

The rest of the story follows ... it's honestly not a bad story, and offers viewers / readers much, much to think about.  To some extent, the current film has been adopted by the American Right but truth be told,  at least the current installment (it's based on part one of a quartet of books) is far more independent than that.  Good film!

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