Posts tagged jennifer lawrence
And so, Jennifer Lawrence officially became the most delightful, funny, and likeable actress in Hollywodd.
I love her. I think she’s great. But there’s a lack of filter between her brain and her mouth. Right now it’s cute, disarming even. And it’s probably not an affectation; she’s probably just legitimately in awe of her success and career trajectory.
But it’s either going to get really old really fast or it’s going to get her in trouble one day. Possibly both.
Not hating, just pointing it out.
With high expectations comes an initial surge of approval. “I loved everything about it,” is what I told my wife as we walked out of the theater. As we drove home and I thought about it drifting to sleep, a little bit of the sheen of The Hungers Games started to wear off. What I’m left with, what I have to accept as the The Film I’d Been Waiting For, is a bit more flawed than I’d expected it to be.
There are parts where the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games succeeds brilliantly. To counter, there are parts where it falls painfully short of realizing its true potential. The result is a movie I enjoyed and would probably see again, to soak up the nuance. But after recognizing its shortcomings and, to be fair, praising its successes, I’m able to look at Gary Ross’ adaptation and embrace it, flaws and all.
Ross’ technical achievements with the film can’t be understated or undersold. He effectively balances CGI and traditional filmmaking in a way that harkens back to Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings, where, even if you stripped away all the shots of the Capitol and film’s more technical marvels, you’re still left with a rich, compelling execution of a story. The duality of Ross’ realization of The Hunger Games is so admirably stark. Minutes after giving us Capitol eye candy and a brilliantly envisioned dystopian future, he offers up some truly inspiring natural camerawork, hearkening Terrence Malick and Terry Gilliam at their best.
And it’s in that natural space that The Hunger Games really excels. Ross and his crew adeptly captured the pastoral qualities of Suzanne Collins’ arena, intermingling brutality, violence and chaos in such a dichotomous way that you’re able to step back and really see the tragic irony of Collins’ vision: In something so beautiful, we bear witness to something so ugly. That the movie was able to make me see that where the book fell short is remarkable. More to the point, Ross achieves a stunning level of emotion in how he handles The Hunger Games proper, in how he portrays adolescents as victims and villains, in his unflinching glimpses of violence for sport. Each on-camera death is dealt to the audience with a sense of remorse, each shocking act one that propels the viewer deeper into this realistic (but thankfully fictional) world.
Ross’ successes, though, wouldn’t be nearly as laudable if it weren’t for the actors who push the story along. In Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Ross has a heroine that commands our attention the entire time. Gone is the frail girl of Collins’ novels, full of self-doubt and wracked with pangs of insecurity. Enter, instead, a vibrant kind of warrior, strong-willed and determined. In fact, this is Lawrence’s sweet spot, enduring punishment, pain and anguish and rising above it to deliver the kind of star-making performance actors dream about. I couldn’t help but draw similarities — and I’m sure I’m not alone here — between Katniss and Ree from 2010’s Winter’s Bone, a role for which Lawrence received an Oscar nomination. Both endure violent hardship set against an unforgiving environment, and both did so with an unfailing sense of personal responsibility and power.
Lawrence is cast opposite Josh Hutcherson, who plays a CliffsNotes version of Peeta Mellark. Physically dissimilar to what Collins describes in the novels, Hutcherson’s biggest asset is his craft, his ability to hold the screen alongside Lawrence and the always superb Woody Harrelson (as their mentor, Haymitch) and not feel like he’s playing above his head. He’s solid, if unspectacular, when he needs to be and he possesses this affable, slightly aloof charm that makes you realize the filmmakers have greater plans for him as the series unfolds throughout the next few years.
But, as I noted before, there are shortcomings, from the jarring camerawork, which I appreciated at times and loathed at others; to its tendency to pander to its audience through handfuls of shots back to District 12 and a forlorn-looking Gale, played completely without respect to the novel by a miscast Liam Hemsworth; to its dénouement, which feels more like a series of interjected afterthoughts than a well-thought-out part of the film. But the biggest, most egregious shortcoming of The Hunger Games, while damning, is understandable.
It’s the pitfall of Collins’ first-person narrative. Readers of the books are privy to Katniss’ unending internal monologue, her innermost thoughts, fears, concerns, desires and, at times, adolescent flights of fancy. While Lawrence’s Katniss is the unquestioned focal point of the film, it’s moral center, we’ve lost that all-important connection to her subconscious, which, by Collins’ design, serves as an important narrative catalyst. It’s through Katniss’ thoughts that we see (or, rather, read) her blossoming affection for Peeta. So when we lose that in the movie, the road to their romance feels truncated, artificial, all part of the show. All her actions are half as affective, half as convincing, than they were in the book. This is moot as a cinematic critique; Lawrence played her part beautifully and the script — though wanting for dialogue — communicated Collins’ story effectively. Rather, it’s a critique of the adaptation, aimed at those who have read the books: I was thoroughly underwhelmed by much of Ross’ and Collins’ celluloid storytelling, the progression of her rich narrative pared down for the big screen.
But again, all things in context, The Hunger Games does more right than wrong throughout its two hour, 20 minute frame. It was exciting and engrossing, well-acted and superbly directed. It was, at once, a large-scale CGI production and a rich piece of pastoral cinema, where nature and humanity are characters as real and piercing as those who are engaged with them.
dwsc asked: Do you think the Hunger Games has enough strength to top the Harry Potter series in quality and staying true to the source material? I know Suzanne Collins already saw it and said she was really happy with it and felt that both the movie and the book are "two separate pieces that enhance one another."
I think the Harry Potter series — literary and cinematic — has something that The Hunger Games series has: allegory. I think that’s the main thing working in THG’s favor when it comes to matching Harry Potter in terms of quality. Ultimately, though, I’m pretty sure it’ll fall short in places, mostly those queasy melodramatic bits where Katniss doesn’t know who she loves and that the world is conspiring against her. The books really suffer in those moments, so I imagine the movies will, as well. That said, I fully expect Jennifer Lawrence to add some much-needed gravity in her portrayal. I think we’ll see fewer moments of “Katniss the confused girl” and more moments of “Katniss the strong woman.”
When it comes to staying true to source material, I think THG’s biggest asset is director Gary Ross, who has stated he’s a big fan of the books and wants to remain as true to them as possible. If he signs on for the second, third and fourth installments, I think we’ll have a series we can be proud of. If THG goes the way of Potter (and Twilight, for that matter) and uses different directors, we might see some disparate tendencies, which would be an absolute shame. But that’s the nature of Hollywood. Projects come up and, sooner or later, hands get tied.
Early word on Catching Fire is that Ross is lobbying hard for the job and he wants Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) to pen the script. If that’s the case, I think that installment is in very good hands.
Here’s the thing that gives me a lot of hope for the THG series as a whole if Ross stays on: He’s a fantastic writer who has a lot of respect for not just storytelling but for character arc. In Hollywood, he’s what you’d call a writer’s director, and I’m sure his attachment to THG makes Suzanne Collins very, very happy. And if it makes her happy, you know the fans of the book series will be happy, too.
You guys, Peeta is just SO LITTLE and I think this might affect the way I see the Gale/Peeta battle in the movies because I mean COME ON. Little Peeta, get in my pocket. Gale you can get in my pants another way. OH BOOM.
I BET HE’S BIG IN OTHER WAYS
Also, am I crazy, or wasn’t Katniss described as being shorter than both Peeta and Gale in the books?? I’m expecting lots of trick cinematography in the movie. Or, at the very least, Josh Hutcherson is going to pull a Tom Cruise and wear lifts.