A Stretch of Imagination In “The Giver”
At the Theatre With Audrey Linden
Jeff Bridges intended to have his father Loyd Bridges play the lead in “The Giver” but, the elder Bridges, passed away. It took years to get the project off the ground and Jeff Bridges himself, had become the old, craggy man and was the perfect age to play the Giver. The film is based on Lois Lowry’s best-selling book of the same title. Director Phillip Noyce brought Michael Mitnick’s screenplay to life.
The film also stars Meryl Streep as the ruler of the Utopian society, Chief Elder; Katie Holmes is the mother of Benton Thwaite’s Jonas and Alexander Skarsgard as Jonas' father; Emma Tremblay plays his sister, Lilly, Odeya Rush is his girlfriend, Fiona, Cameron Monaghan is Asher, and Taylor Swift has a cameo as the Giver’s daughter, Rosemary.
Imagine a society in which there is no crime, no killings, no shootings, no gangs, no war, no competition. In view of our recent headlines with war, murder and mayhem in daily does, who would not opt for a Utopian society? They even got rid of global warming. Everything is perfect. Or is it? What must be sacrificed in order to achieve utopia?
One has to have only perfect children, and those children are given to perfect parents to raise as their own. There is a daily dose of medication to keep all on an even keel. There are no lows, but there also are no highs. Curfews are maintained, and all must be accounted for. There is no competition and it is about uniformity and sameness.After graduation, the youngsters are assigned their jobs, as Chief Elder materializes on a screen to thank each graduate for “giving your childhood”.
It seems memory has vanished in this perfect view of life. It would have to be as the memory of pain and war and killing might bring those very things about. The keeper of Memory is the Giver, Jeff Bridges. Young Jonas has been selected to be the Receiver of Memory because of his sensitivity and special talents. In a black and white world, he alone sees color. The journey is painful. Unlike the others, he can lie, and he does not have to obey the rules.
With a stretch of imagination, the Giver sends full and graphic memory images to Jonas. The two work on this exchange daily. But, Jonas is an independent thinker, and he knows what feelings are due to the transference of Memory. Yes, there is pain, but there is also the unfamiliar feeling of joy. There is killing and war, but there is love. And, Jonas comes to love baby Gabriel, whom his family has taken in to foster as if Gabriel was his own. Gabriel is next in line to become a Receiver as he also shares the strange mark on his wrist. But Baby Gabriel does no thrive to specifications and he must be released by Jonas’ father.
Meryl Streep comes across as wooden and gives a caricature performance. She looms larger than life but is not believable. Bridges gives a good performance as the tormented Giver who is pained by Memory. He comes to care for his student as the two forge a bond.
Jonas must go to the edge of the earth to the triangle of trees in order to restore Memory to the black and white world. To do so, he must lie and break rules.
I overheard some patrons in the audience at the Landmark Theatre comment that the book was better and more fully realized than the film. There is a subtelty needed to bring this fantasy about. It is not quite there in the film. And there were changes from book. The characters were twelve years old but they are older in the film. There was no tension between the Giver and the Elder in the book. In spite of the changes, all didn’t quite work in this film. But, the message of the film is strong and meaningful. There has to be a balance. Feelings are to be valued and not forgotten. Life without feelings produces a void. Love fills that void. Even a “perfect” world is not perfect. "The Giver" has an awesome message which certainly is worth pondering on.
Check your local listings for theatres showing “The Giver”. It is playing at the Landmark Theatre on Pico and Overland.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her classes are on-going in June through July and start again in September. For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com