Stuck somewhere between social drama and flashy fantasy, THE GIVING is an allegorical tale revolving around the relationships between the guilty rich and the defiantly destitute which engages the eye without rousing either the head or the heart.
Jeremiah Pollock's (Kevin Kildow) skills as a Los Angeles computer programmer have netted him a cushy job with a salary somewhere in the low six figures along with corporate perks like a free BMW and Marina Del Ray condo from his bank employer, for whom he's designed and installed an ATM program
in record time. Pollock's vanity plate, HACKER1, hints at an anarchic spirit that surfaces when he tries to do something worthwhile for the city's teeming homeless population. He thinks it's enough that he gives huge amounts at charity benefits until he's frozen into inaction when he encounters
security guards harassing a homeless group. The group's irascible leader Gregor (Lee Hampton) challenges Pollock's sincerity and accuses him of being a charity junkie whose lavish contributions are meant only to assuage his guilt over earning so much for doing so little. To prove Gregor wrong,
Pollock goes on a private hunger strike and rigs his own bank's ATM system to dispense money to anyone holding a code number which Pollock changes daily and distributes to the homeless. Gregor accumulates a nest egg towards his dream of buying land in LA for an urban farm that would be a refuge
for the homeless. But at the same time he still sneers at Pollock for providing money to crack junkies who smoke themselves to death.
Eventually, Pollock's plot is discovered by his bosses who decline to prosecute but fire Pollock and mangle his personal and credit profiles to ensure that he becomes a capitalist outcast. Moving into a seedy Skid Row hotel after being ousted from his condo, Pollock is allowed to keep the BMW,
which he inadvertently uses to lead the bank's private security forces to the homeless group, which they terrorize to recover what money they can. Pollock is bludgeoned by one of his own erstwhile co-workers and dies while Gregor's urban farm, bought with the stolen bank money, flourishes.
The grandson of designers Charles and Ray Eames, writer-producer-director Eames Demetrios has designed a film that looks at its best like advertising for men's cologne and at its worst like a freshman film school assignment suffering from budget bloat. Whether that helps or hurts THE GIVING's
social message is difficult to determine since it's nearly impossible to pin down just what the social message is supposed to be. The screenplay is amateurish, self-indulgent and wincingly whimsical, depicting the homeless as cute, colorful urban pioneers and their yuppie nemeses as either wanton
goons or simpering liberals who can't understand why the homeless spit on their money.
Why Pollock's talents are worth anything is never established--what's so great about an ATM that anyone can loot without a bank card? The program itself looks like incoherent gibberish that would doubtless daunt any typical bank customer. Why anyone should care about Pollock as a person is equally
elusive. He keeps saying he wants to give till it hurts, and after a very short time it's hard not to wish he'll attain some amount of pain for the irritations he inflicts with his long, windy, pointless monologues. Pollock and Gregor deserve each other, since Gregor is little more than the
obnoxious embodiment of Pollock's guilt, another overbearing blowhard whose own monologues deal with how much he hates people who give him money for the wrong reasons.
Mostly THE GIVING plays as if it should be congratulated for having been made at all rather than for having been made well, which it isn't. Its plot resembles Luis Bunuel's classic VIRIDIANA, and its penchant for slick but empty surrealist imagery raises the even more ominous possibility that
Demetrios, along with executive producer Tim Disney (grand-nephew of Walt), thinks he really does have something in common with the grand old man of surrealism. In fact, they couldn't hold his martini. Bunuel made films about human vanity, whereas THE GIVING is a vanity film and no more genuinely
subversive than an Obsession ad. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Stuck somewhere between social drama and flashy fantasy, THE GIVING is an allegorical tale revolving around the relationships between the guilty rich and the defiantly destitute which engages the eye without rousing either the head or the heart. Jeremiah… (more)