Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games


Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Gary Ross
Running Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Rating: PG-13

I’m probably one of the few people in the world that hasn’t read The Hunger Games trilogy. They’re insanely popular and may have even surpassed the “Twilight” mania. The fact that it was filmed in North Carolina furthers the craze, at least among locals. The story surrounds 12 districts in a futuristic society, whose punishment for a long ago rebellion is to participate in the annual “Hunger Games.” A boy and a girl from each district venture to the Capitol, where they are trained to fight each other to the death. Intense. The movie is long, though not too long, but I could watch the effortless Jennifer Lawrence on-screen for hours on end. Her portrayal of Katniss is an inspiration to young girls, as she shows both maternal and warrior-like instincts. A strong supporting cast furthers the film, though from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t even compare to the book.

In the first fifteen minutes, Katniss volunteers as “tribute” after her younger sister gets chosen to fight. (Hasn’t everyone seen that clip by now?) It’s heartbreaking – Katniss knows there is a strong chance she won’t survive – her odds are 1/24. Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta, the boy chosen from her district. In the words of a colleague, Hutcherson is “a shrimp” compared to Katniss’ best friend Gale, played by the yummy Liam Hemsworth. (Side note – Liam didn’t get enough screen time and I envy Miley Cyrus for taming that tall drink of water.) Peeta doesn’t seem to pose as much of a threat – Katniss could easily take him. Jennifer Lawrence is a natural in the woods, as the harsh, unforgiving wilderness very much echoes that of her breakout film “Winter’s Bone.” She got an Oscar nod for that, and I know more are in her future. I just didn’t see the chemistry between Katniss and Peeta. Perhaps this was a casting flaw, or just an underdeveloped plot line.

Elizabeth Banks is unrecognizable as Effie Trinket, the pair’s escort to the Capitol. Her sing-songy voice was stuck in my head the entire evening. On the 200mph train, they are surrounded by lavish furniture and rich delicacies to eat, which neither are accustomed to, coming from the poorest district. (The pastries in this scene are from Amelie’s – an awesome bakery in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood!)

As the last tribute to win from their District, Woody Harrelson plays a sloppy drunk who could care less about the “Games.” It’s only when he sees Katniss’ talent and possibility to win that he begins to act as a mentor. Stanly Tucci is exaggerated and hilarious as the “Games” commentator. (Anyone besides Dickie V would have done wonderfully here.) The play on reality TV here is interesting: their society has gotten so desperate for entertainment that watching youths battle to the death is popular.

I suppose it was his breakout role in “Precious” that got Lenny Kravitz his acting reputation. He is wonderful as Katniss’ sexually ambiguous designer/friend. I was apprehensive as to how the film would get us attached to the tributes, and then expect us to be okay with them dying. The girl next to me in the theatre was bawling during one particular death. And though Katniss possesses some ridiculous hunting skills and incomparable determination, pure luck saved her butt once or twice.

This film definitely makes you wonder how far away this futuristic society is. Not that I think society will ever resort to killing our own for pure entertainment value, but as reality shows get more and more ridiculous, and trains creep to 200mph, it does make me curious. I hope the second and third movies/books include more Gale time, and I’m eager to see the rest of the journey unfold. 


2 comments:

  1. Hi Amanda, great review. I, like you, have not read the books so I have resorted to a lot of Google time to fill in some blanks (I guess I could just read the books). I have seen the movie twice as a result, not so much because I am enamored of the characters or the acting or the locale of its making but because it just seems like there is a whole bunch to unpack in this story and I just keep thinking I will see something else if I see it again (and I was right when I saw it the second time). The story has much to say about consumerism, the role of violence in our time, the true cost of things, and much more. Still fascinated.

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  2. Thank you so much for the comment! I agree - lots of undertones to explore. Seeing it once is not enough.

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