“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.” The idea that the government knows best is not a new one, a.k.a. The Nanny State. This one’s bright idea of “fixing” humanity was to create a super-regimented, highly regulated, advanced technological and micro-managed community, devoid of diversity, color (a nifty trick!), emotion and things like adventure and genuine pleasure. Sameness becomes the goal but equality, taken to such extremes, becomes a great evil rather than a virtue. This might be the ultimate example of throwing out the baby with the bathwater in that by ridding people of the bad, they also strip them of the things that make life worth living. You know it’s bad when someone says something like “The Elders are never wrong.” Dum-duh-dum-dum! Brenton Thwaites stars as Jonas, who is chosen (in a ceremony a LOT like the ones in Harry Potter, Divergent and The Hunger Games) to become apprentice to The Receiver of Memory (Jeff Bridges). It is his lot to retain memories of the world as it was before. They can never be shared with anyone else except an apprentice, but he does offer advice based on his broader knowledge to the leaders of The Community. Since Jonas is to be the Receiver of Memory, the two of them decide to call the previous one “the Giver”. Taylor Swift plays the part of a previous apprentice, Rosemary, who mysteriously didn’t work out and subsequently disappeared. The trouble really begins when Jonas starts illicitly sharing what he’s learned with his friend Fiona (Odeya Rush), and generally starting to behave contrary to the rules of The Community.
While I appreciate a lot about this movie, I’ve got to wonder if there’s an assembly line somewhere churning out scripts about future dystopian societies where one or two characters just don’t quite fit in, i.e. the Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Island, etc., although this one puts a creepy Pleasantville spin on the theme. There are some great sequences illustrating the joys as well as the horrors of life, and it’s always a pleasure to see Alexander Skarsgård (Eric Northman!! from True Blood). But while I have a feeling the book is probably more interesting and quite profound, the movie left much to be desired. The prologue says there are no losers or winners, but one of the first lines is “I win,” regarding the competitive sport of baby weighing. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Right from the beginning, the script violates its own basic tenet, with a character crying “That’s just not fair!”. I liked the subtle use of color shading throughout, but unfortunately an emotionless society makes for a boring movie. With no real resolution other than a nice montage encapsulating the full human experience, it was too oversimplified for my taste. I hear there are several other books by the same author set in this world, but if any of them get made into movies I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. – BETHANY
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Taylor Swift as Rosemary.
Photos courtesy of Asis Productions, Tonik Productions, Walden Media and The Weinstein Company (unless otherwise credited in clickable form)