Imagine a society where everyone is average. There is no envy, and therefore no conflict. KURT VONNEGUT'S HARRISON BERGERON is intellectual science fiction with a thoughtful and entertaining premise.
In 2053, after the Second American Revolution, it has been determined that for society to thrive, everyone must be of equal skill and intelligence. All Americans wear headbands that regulate IQ levels, but Harrison Bergeron (Sean Astin) continues to think at a higher grade than classmates and
family. Hoping to make him normal, his family takes him in for treatment. The day before brain surgery, a doctor gives Harrison the address of an underground "head house," where he can have conversations with intelligent women. There, he meets Phillipa (Miranda de Pencier), who plays chess with
him. The house is raided, and Harrison wakes up at the National Administration Center, which secretly runs the country. Phillipa is a spy, and Harrison has been chosen to join the nation's hidden leaders (his family is told he died on the operating table). He learns that in the late 20th century,
after the Cold War, growing technology made most jobs obsolete and unemployment skyrocketed, causing the riots that started the Revolution. The NAC restored order by giving society back to the "common person." Harrison argues they will be better off if freedom and intellectual and artistic
stimulation are returned to citizens.
Harrison and Phillipa fall in love. They plan to escape to Mexico, but Phillipa is caught and given the brain operation to become "normal." Harrison is told that he has been chosen to lead the NAC. He balks, locks himself in their TV studio, goes on the air and tells America the truth, then plays
them unauthorized music, reads great literature and shows classic films. He controls the airwaves for nearly a day, until guards break into the room; it seems that after his show, 99% of the country put their headbands back on and forgot all he said. Ordered to make a new broadcast telling the
remaining 1% that it was all a hoax, Bergeron does so, then kills himself on the air. The audience doesn't understand. Years later, bootlegs of his show circulate among teens, and Harrison Bergeron becomes a hero to a new generation.
While visually plain and lacking author Vonnegut's clever wordplay, KURT VONNEGUT'S HARRISON BERGERON is a superior made-for-cable TV production. The screenplay is biting and often hilarious, making current pop-culture references without tying itself down to any present-day political situation,
and unafraid of letting viewers draw their own conclusions. The future envisioned in the film is extreme--but not out of the realm of possibility. Assertions that many people prefer predictability to quality, and power to intelligence ring uncomfortably true. The story offers no easy answers; the
Revolution is horrifying, and the oblivious masses are clearly happy being synthetically average. The ending is hopeful but cautious, implying that there will always be a small subculture holding ideals unacceptable to the majority. Astin is a little too incredulous as Harrison, but the other
performances are first rate, especially de Pencier's smart, sexy female lead. Several cameos provide clever in-jokes, typical of a film that invites one to think on many different levels. (Profanity, sexual situations, adult situations, violence.)
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