The Giver

(Editors Note: unlike most of this site's content, this review is not structured like an essay. Instead, it's modeled after a real-time opinion poll such as you might see on a cable news network's coverage of a Presidential debate, where the baseline level of approval is 50% and it then rises and falls depending on what is said and done.)

-The Giver opens up by establishing the particulars of it's dystopian world. (Still at 50%. I've seen a lot of good dystopian movies and I've seen a lot of bad dystopian movies.) Apparently, the people in this world are trained from birth to be unfailingly honest and literal minded. (Down to 45%. Seems unlikely.) Humor is apparently nonexistent. (Minus another three. I'm not going to enjoy this movie if it takes itself too seriously.)

-All of the city's teenagers are about to attended a ceremony where they will be assigned permanent occupations. (Back up to 50%: I know that this scene is meant to evoke the specter of fascism, but I feel like my life would have been a lot easier if someone had just told me what my career would be, instead of telling me "pick whatever career path you want, but know that no matter what you pick you'll spend the rest of your life feeling like you could have made a better choice, and whatever discontent you feel is all your fault.") We seem to be focusing on a trio of friends, and the woman is sent to work at the maternity ward and the man is sent to become a drone pilot. (Down to 45%. Feel like this is setting up a lazy dichotomy that will be trouble later.) Our hero has been passed over for no apparent reason. (Neutral, although I hope this movie understands that I have no emotional investment in the fact that someone I just met wasn't assigned a job in the proper order in a completely made up ceremony.)

-As soon as everyone else has been assigned a job our hero is told that he will be The Receiver, which means that he will be the apprentice to the Giver. (Down to 40% because the titles "The Giver" and "The Receiver" have a really bad ring to them, especially since it's describing a relationship between a grizzled old man and a teenager.) Apparently, The Giver is the only person in society who has any memories of life before their dystopian society was founded. (Negative ten. This seems extremely unlikely. For one, I don't know how all of the memories of antiquity would get wiped out, since that would mean that all religious texts were destroyed and there is no way that everyone would agree to abolish every religion. Also: it seems like a really bad idea to put all of your history eggs in one basket, so I feel like no society would structure itself so that only one person had all the perspective.) Anyway, this kid is now going to become the back up vessel for society's memories. (Back up to the baseline. I'm not buying into this world, but at least it's getting it's exposition out of the way quickly.)

-The way that The Giver gives memories to The Receiver is that they both have tattoos on their wrists and when they touch them together they suddenly have a psychic bond. (Back down to 20%. This is not how tattoos work.) The Giver immediately begins expanding his pupil's worldview by giving him glimpses of sights that he has never dreamt of, like sledding on top of snow. (Still at 20%. This scene is a weird way to let us know that there is no weather in this world. Apparently this society has mastered climate control to such a large extent that they've abolished all the seasons and made it 72 degrees and sunny year round, which seems very implausible to me but nice if you can get it.)

-The next shocking revelation for The Receiver: the color red. Apparently everyone in this world except the Giver (and now the Receiver) is color blind but nobody knew it? (Down to 0% now. I do not know how you make an entire population color blind, nor am I sure why you would want to. We've got a lot of time left in this movie and it's already trotting out unlikely, unnecessary and unbelievable revelations.)

-The Receiver goes home and tries to share his knowledge with his family, but they aren't prepared for radical concepts like "colors". (Back up to 5%. Slightly curious as to how batshit crazy this movie is going to get.) Soon The Receiver is receiving memories of music and dancing, which apparently also have been outlawed, and he gets in trouble for teaching his younger sister how to dance. (Back to 0%. People have such an instinctual need to sing and dance that I don't think you could ever permanently erase them out of our personalities, at least without completely rewiring our entire brain. The idea that Big Brother gives it's sheeple a daily drug injection and then all of a sudden no one is interested in melody or harmony or rhythmic movement is absolute garbage.)

-The Receiver begins to realize that despite the fact that his community is bright, well lit, well manicured and pleasantly temperatured it is, in fact, rather evil. (Still at 0%. Not sure how anyone ever convinced an entire society to get rid of history, colors, music, dancing, jokes, and lies, but if they did somehow manage to weed those out of society they would probably have also erased any innate moral compass we would have, because at that point they would have deleted most of the human brain.)

-The next big shock: the Receiver gets a memory that explains to him what Death is. (-100%. All living creatures, even ones that do not have brains, are instinctively averse to death, and humans in particular are afraid of death since our brains are designed to make us hyper aware of our own mortality. It's such a fundamental part of our existence that it could NEVER be bred out of us, so there's no way a teenager would be unaware of what "death" was.) Apparently, The Receiver missed the mortality memo because no one in this society dies except the old people who "get retired" and the underweight/fussy/twin babies who magically disappear at the birthing center, both of whom are mercy killed for population control reasons. (-150% The idea of a society where death doesn't exist EXCEPT FOR INFANTICIDE is nonsense. I mean, a society where no one ever died is a pipe dream but I get why that's appealing... However, that particular pipe dream is completely incompatible with a society where infanticide is common, because infanticide was only ever practiced in places where the mortality rate was so high that people kind of stopped giving a fuck. Those two ideas cannot coexist at the same time because if you could begin to exert absolute control over who lived and who died you would start by ending infant mortality because PEOPLE INSTINCTIVELY LOVE BABIES and that is fundamental to our biology.)

-(-200%, actually, because now that I'm thinking about it the idea that all the babies come from one central location and are then assigned to random families to raise is also insane, because it presupposes that all of the adults in this world have given up the idea of having their own kids (NEVER GONNA HAPPEN, THAT IS VERY HARDWIRED IN THE DNA OF EVERY ANIMAL.) It also implies that adults are also willing gave up the idea of having sex because this is a world where there are no accident babies. (NUH UNH. Nope. No human has ever said "you know if I could vote for a world where fucking is outlawed in every circumstance I totally would.")

-There's a scene where the Receiver watches his father (who works at the birth center) take a crying infant and inject it in the head with a needle. His father then watches the baby grow still and stop crying, at which point he puts it in a Tupperware bin and tosses the Tupperware bin down a trash chute. (NEGATIVE TWO MILLION. THE IDEA OF A WORLD WHERE NO ONE UNDERSTANDS THE CONCEPT OF "DEATH" IS DUMB DUMB DUMB. How does a full grown man raise three kids to adulthood without instinctively understanding that it's not good when a kid stops crying and moving? Surely some part of his brain understands that PUTTING A BABY IN A TUPPERWARE AND THEN KICKING IT INTO A TRASH CHUTE is not a good way to raise a child, right?)

-The Receiver is a little fed up with his nonsense world, so he steals a doomed baby from the nursery center and then decides to hit the road. (Still -2,000,000. I am incapable of caring anymore.) He puts the baby in a Tupperware, then he puts the Tupperware in the basket of his motor-bicycle, then guns it straight out of town. (Still -2,000,000. But I do want to point out that this kid (who had younger siblings, mind you) does not understand basic safety principles if he thinks it's safe to stow an infant in the basket of a motor-bicycle. I would claim that he got bad ideas from the scene where E.T. rode in the basket of Elliot's bicycle there's no art or history in this movie so that's impossible. Also: that movie was in color, so there's no way he saw it.)

I only watched the Giver because Jeff Bridges was in it. Halfway through I realized "oh if I wanted to watch a Jeff Bridges movie I should have just rewatched The Big Lebowski. So I did, and that went much better for me.

I only watched the Giver because Jeff Bridges was in it. Halfway through I realized "oh if I wanted to watch a Jeff Bridges movie I should have just rewatched The Big Lebowski. So I did, and that went much better for me.

-Now that he's on the lam The Receiver is being targeted by his old buddy the drone pilot. It's a grim situation for him to be in, since he's a helpless teen with a newborn baby and he's staring down a death machine. The drone plane picks The Receiver and the baby up with it's magnetic underbelly (...are they secretly made out of metal?) and then the ship turns around to take them both back to society. Then the Drone pilot changes his mind and drops both The Receiver and the baby fifty feet into a river and then acts like "oh, I just did you two a huge favor by jettisoning you from a great height into some rapids." (-2,000,001. The reason why you want people to UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF DEATH is so that they don't DROP BABIES FIFTY FEET INTO A RIVER and then act like "oh yeah, I just saved the day cause I'm a Boss!")

-Back to the Dystopian society, which is apparently in a state of upheaval, because apparently The Receiver set off some sort of color bomb which gifted the idea of "color" to everyone in their society? (-3,000,000. Not sure how a rainbow bomb works, and also, the very idea of a "rainbow bomb" is hippie nonsense.) The evil ruler of the society is so freaked out by The Receiver's actions that she convenes and big meeting of the muckity mucks (one of whom looks like she's 70 and who apparently has never heard of "kissing".) The evil ruler lady then gives The Giver a big speech about why they had to take away sex, colors, music, etc. from society - it's because whenever they gave people a choice they chose wrong 100% of the time. (-4,000,000. Seeing the color red is not "a choice" nor does it automatically lead to bad outcomes. Though this scene did make me happy for a second because it remind\ed me of the scene in the Simpsons where Principal Skinner blames Lisa's incessant parade of uncomfortable questions on the fact that he let colored chalks slip into his classrooms.)

-Anyway, the evil ruler lady tells The Giver "You of all people know what it's like when men blow..." (At this point Meryl Streep (who is playing the ruler lady) inserted a pregnant pause and I thought: I would forgive this movie of all of it's sins if only she would finish that thought by saying "when men blew each other 69 style") ...But then she finished that thought by saying "when men blow each other up" and then she talked about wars and stuff. (-6,000,000 for tempting me and then failing to deliver.)

-Now that he's off the radar of his dystopian society The Receiver is free to explore the world and find a better place to raise a baby. This mostly involves him wandering around through a desert and then later a forest while cradling an infant he doesn't know how to care for and which he has no food for. (Still at -6,000,000. Not sure how this baby survived the fall, what he's eating, how he's not getting sick, or what geographic location this movie is set in, given that this guy apparently walked from a desert to a forest in a couple of days. Still past the point of caring.) The Receiver and the baby fall asleep in the snow at a random point in the woods and when they wake up The Receiver has to dislodge a foot of snow off his back (baby's still alive though)... and then when he looks up he sees the cabin from his sledding memory! (Good thing those woods are so tiny that you are guaranteed to find that exact cabin even if you are wandering around in them blindly. Too bad he didn't find that cabin BEFORE HE SLEPT FACEDOWN IN THE SNOW ON TOP OF AN INFANT.) Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Happy Ending! (-6,000,002. I am not happy.)

-With a cumulative score of over negative six million I can't imagine The Giver getting elected Movie President any time soon. But that's good! Because movies with ideas this bad should not be in charge of anything.

Winner: The Cat

The Giver on IMDB