The Giver offers a pro-life message as well as a warning of what nanny state policies could lead.
So why is Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals, teaming up with Walden Media to bring Lois Lowry’s story to movie houses?
The Giver producer Chip Flaherty says Lowry’s tale represents a cultural moment when both the left and the right can join together. The film’s dystopian future may pack conservative messages, but it also pays tribute to passion, creativity and the messy business of personal freedom.
Flaherty recalls how Weinstein, out promoting the film earlier this week, told talk radio star Laura Ingraham that there’s more that unites Americans than divides us.
Flaherty, who co-founded Walden Media with brother Michael Flaherty, believes The Giver is just such a project. And he has nothing but praise for The Weinstein Company’s efforts to boost the film. The studio’s founder led the way.
“He’s the reason this movie even got made,” Flaherty says. “He was so taken with the source material.”
Lowry’s 1993 tale tells of a society free of war, confrontation and cultural pain. It’s also oppressive, taking almost all of life’s choices away from people in return for a lack of social friction.
Young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is tasked with holding the memories of culture’s dark, war-torn past. But the more he experiences those warts and all reflections, the more he realizes society has given up far too much.
The Flaherty brothers have a long history with The Giver. The book was the first property Walden Media pursued, but the new studio “couldn’t crack it,” Flaherty says. The rights eventually fell into Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges’ hands.
The Big Lebowski star originally wanted to direct the film and cast his father, Lloyd Bridges, as the title character. Many years later, the son is now old enough to play that avuncular figure.
Bridges brought a sly sense of humor to the production.
When Lowry first visited the set Bridges sent roses to her room with a note. “After 18 years of waiting we finally get to do it tomorrow. Congratulations.”
Flaherty says the book’s themes prevented them from taking too many liberties with the source material. The movie celebrates free will while taking down authority figures, personified by Meryl Streep’s council elder.
“At the very least let’s not be that. Let’s be faithful to the source material,” he says.
The initial wave of reviews, while mixed, don’t castigate the film for its conservative messages. Flaherty isn’t surprised.
“There’s so much there, so many hot-button issues … it’s almost counter-intuitive,” he says. “[Audiences] take their ideological hats off and say, ‘I’m just gonna sit back and lose myself in the narrative.”