Remember when you were 15 years old and you refused to conform? When you hated your stupid high school and the stupid jocks and the stupid teachers who were trying to turn you into a fucking robot for the corporations, but they would never get you to sell out, no way? They would never take away your Kurt Vonnegut/Ayn Rand/J.R.R. Tolkien books or get you to stop listening to Pink Floyd/Joy Division/Korn. They could force you to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, but they would never get your soul.
Most people eventually grow out of that phase and become mature adults, and for the rest there is The Giver. The latest film from Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Rabbit-Proof Fence) is one of those science fiction dystopia movies about a perfect society with a dark secret lurking beneath the surface. Eventually our protagonist is revealed as The Chosen One who swallows the blue pill and frees the sheeple from their regimented society. Think The Matrix (1999) or The Island (2005) or THX 1138 (1971) or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (any of them). Most of these movies are fun, or at least campy, but The Giver isn’t – it takes itself very seriously and aims for the scope of an epic, though its threadbare libertarian philosophy would be better suited for a half hour episode of Outer Limits or a graphic novel.
Since it’s all a big metaphor, everything in The Giver is wonderfully generic. Brenton Thwaites stars as Jonas, a young lad living in The Community who is about to graduate from The School. While attending The Ceremony, the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep!) lets The Boy know that he is chosen to be the Receiver of Memories. This great gig means he gets to learn all the secrets from Jeff Bridges, who in addition to being The Dude is also The Giver. Things go sideways quickly, as The Kid turns out to be something of a loose cannon. He ends up causing tons of problems all around, antagonizing Meryl Streep as well as his Father and his Mother (played by Katie Holmes who starred in The First Daughter (2004) only ten years ago). In no time at all The Lad has to set out on his Hero’s Journey and destroy the Ring or Unplug the Matrix or some such, freeing everybody to feel pain and see in color, though he never polled anybody to see if they actually wanted this.
The black and white cinematography is good, and Jeff Bridges absolutely disappears into his role as The Giver, though it remains a mystery why he bothered to turn in such a good performance in such a weak film. Definitely wait for this movie to get to cable, unless you’re 15 years old and want to stick it to The Man, in which case you should either sneak in or stay at home and read Anthem by Ayn Rand.
Overall Score: 59
Letter Grade: C+