Monday night, I had the wonderful, unique opportunity to see the New York City premiere of The Giver movie at Ziegfeld Theatre, four days before its release today. The entire cast of the movie had spoken to other theaters, telecasted nationwide, live from the city premiere with a formal introduction to the public pre-screening.
The movie, directed by the incredible and notable, Phillip Noyce, is based on the novel, The Giver, written in 1993 by Lois Lowry. It depicts a world of "sameness" and monotony -- no love, no hate, no anger, no death, no happiness, no warmth, no color -- nothing. Everybody is the same except for their name. There are family units where a woman is assigned to a man, and then they are both assigned one boy and one girl given birth by women who are assigned the title of "Birthmother." You can see that I'm using the word "assigned" a lot. That's because EVERYTHING is assigned. When you reach the age of nine, you are ASSIGNED your own bicycle -- you can't have one before nor ride one before that age. When you reach the age of 12, you are ASSIGNED your future occupation -- who you will be. This is also the age you start to train towards that, along with starting to take daily pills to eliminate what they call "Stirrings," better known as dreams. However, the concept of dreams is not known to this community so stirrings is the word in lieu of dreams.
This is where our story starts -- black and white. You almost feel that you should have reread the book you haven't touched since elementary/middle school as our main character, Jonas, is introduced biking with his friends, Asher and Fiona, to school. Jonas is played by Australian actor, Brenton Thwaites -- an anticipating and apprehensive "Twelve," waiting for the ceremony for him and the other Twelves to be told what his future assignment and life will hold. When he finds out, his entire life is changed as he is SELECTED (not assigned!) to be the next Receiver of Memories, what the Chief Elder, played by the legendary Meryl Streep, warns will be "very painful."
Anyways, I'm not here to tell you the entire book, as most of you already know it. And if you don't, I suggest you go out and grab yourself a copy. But don't worry about it if you haven't. My mom came with me to the premiere and didn't know the book at all -- nor had read it -- and this is where the beauty of the movie truly came out. It was easy to follow -- something only a truly impeccable movie can accomplish. However, as for my readers who have read the book, I want you to remember that there is always a difference between a book and a movie, where the movie is always BASED on the book. There will be minor differences. As the author, Lois Lowry stated in the movie cover copy of the book, "But the book hasn't gone away. It has simply grown up, grown larger, and begun to glisten in a new way."
And glisten in a new way it has. I will confess that The Giver had made me shed a tear more than a few times as I was watching it. The characters were so carefully selected -- in a way that they do not differ much from how we depicted them in our minds. Thwaites was an excellent Jonas. His facial expression depicted genuinely with his smile when he felt happiness for the first time, and the audience could legitimately feel his pain when he felt death and anger for the first time, from the memory of war.
Everything about him acting as Jonas, you could see he had been carefully selected for this role. Jeff Bridges, even as he gets older, still possesses his charm as he plays, The Giver. His character's wise, earnest attitude with a little dash of humor and sarcasm is the perfect fit for Bridges. You fall in love with him the more you get into the movie.
Then there's Fiona, played by the gleamingly radiant, young actress, Odeya Rush. She's been acting for a long time, but this is one of her first big roles -- and impress the audience she did. Her wavy brown curls, and big blue eyes help bring out the character, Fiona, who is innocent, but playful, daring, and ambitious to learn, even if that means breaking the rules. Rush's confidence and resoluteness is transparent in her role, making the chemistry between her and Jonas even more real, showing the audience what "love" literally is, if we're using "precision of language" here.
Cameron Monaghan, who plays Asher, had the sincere and vivacious quality to do his role justice -- especially since in the movie, his occupation turns out to be a daring one. He also has that rare ability to quickly switch from the young and reckless daredevil who loves breaking rules to the austere, young adult-in-training.
The classy Katie Holmes did a fantastic job playing the mother of Jonas -- a concerned, serious Lawyer, who only wants what she feels best for her son. Alexander Skarsgård played the father of Jonas and did a wonderful job playing the nonchalant, relaxed, gracious, Nurturer, caretaker of the newborns, with ease.
Now Meryl Streep -- this legendary woman played the Chief Elder -- who overrules everything that goes on in the world of the communities. She was perfect to play the role of a woman who can appear powerful, but at the same time, have her weariness and vulnerability shine through to issue what can be unheard of.
Then there's country star Taylor Swift, who plays Rosemary, the former Receiver of Memories. Taylor hasn't acted in a long time, and in Q&A segment of the movie cover copy of the book, she states that, "I have only been in very tiny parts in one or two movies because I was waiting for the right thing to come along to fully commit." And she did. Her acting was superb, shining with elegance and motivation, discrete concentration that in unison, transparently spoke "natural." Her role is minor, but at the same time, very paramount, as she is part of the reason that Jonas is inspired to make a change. And this is where I begin to tell you how The Giver sparks inspiration for our world, today.
You know, growing up, we have heard our elders say, "You know, when I was your age, we didn't have 'this' or 'that.'" That's true. Our world is changing every single day. We don't have gigantic cell phones that look like they need to be held with both of your hands, nor do we have gigantic computers that weigh approximately 100 pounds. They're classified in this category called, "outdated." They didn't have iPhones, nor the front-feature camera ability to snap a selfie. They didn't have such a thing as a "juice cleanse" that came in a one or two week pack for your stomach to be cleansed of all its wasteful and unnecessary products. We don't have what they had, and they didn't have what we have. Why? Change.
The Giver shows that we need change in our world, but not just that, courage, too. When Jonas' receives the memory of courage after he has seen and felt pain -- he is unstoppable. He sets on to be different, and share that different to the rest of his community. The movie shows actual images and video footage from our world today and when these images were shown, that's when the tears started streaming down my face. The beauty of it, the pain of it, the sadness of it, as well as the legitimacy of it. You experience these feelings all as Jonas receives them like while you were watching the movie, you became apart of the variety-lacking community, but bit by bit, you start feeling and seeing the world again.
The movie ends you with the knowledge that you can do anything you set your mind to. It's as if the movie is actually The Giver -- and you are now The Receiver of Inspiration -- a total twist, right? You want to become the next CEO? Go ahead. You're only 15 and you want to explore the world? Go ahead. You want to write the next big time novel? Go ahead. GO AHEAD AND DO ANYTHING YOU WANT, because quoting Meryl Streep's character in the movie, Chief Elder, "When you allow people to choose -- they choose wrong. Always." WRONG.
When you allow people to choose, you inspire hope. You inspire the change and hope to do something right, just, and powerful in this world -- no matter your race, your sexual orientation, your gender, your age, anything. There is too much sadness, disgust, and hatred in our world today and I won't be that person to tell you it's not there when every time I read or listen or see the news -- it's all there. We need change, the good kind. We need happiness. We need love. We have all of it, already actually, but we need these things to become the majority. It starts with the little things in our lives. It starts with us, our generation. It starts with you.
The Giver? Four out of four stars. No doubt.