‘Hunger Games’ Casts Grittiest Jennifer Lawrence

         
 

18 March 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

For weeks I had been anticipating whether it would be Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) or Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) to take lead in “The Hunger Games.” Based on seeing both of their recent Oscar-nominated work, my edging preference was for Lawrence and now indeed she’s got the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen. Don’t be fooled. She’s more than just pretty.

Steinfeld would have been an acceptable choice too. But if either one of them had been passed over I think I would have flipped-out. “Zombieland’s” Abigail Breslin anyone? I hoped not. Nor would have any other young actress I could think of would have the pluck and bravado to take on the role. Of the two young actresses running, Lawrence proved in her one star-making role that she has the tougher grit. Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone,” while beaten to the ground by a circle of vigilantes, is asked by them what she thinks they should do with her. “I suppose you are going to kill me,” she retorts, without any fear for tears.

It took me from about New Year’s Day until the end of January to read all three books in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy with followed-up installments “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.” (Let’s not forget that in bookstores it has been shelved in the Young Adult section. Pleaseee!) The trilogy surges mixed emotions. The second installment is brewing with rising personal and societal turbulence and is ultimately a powerhouse. The third installment just simply tries too hard to serve up the chaos but the final chapters are so riveting they put a chokehold on you. Yet the final pages of part one is so powerfully Orwellian that it might – depending on what kind of person you are – make you stop right there and let the mind brood over its startling ambiguity.

Plot/Introduction: In the bleak postwar future of “The Hunger Games,” twelve oppressed Districts with specialized export industries live hard while the affluent people of the Capitol feed off their work production. The Capitol is the central government of Panem, renamed after most of North America was ravaged by war. Each year the Capitol runs a lottery that reaps one boy and one girl between ages 12-18 to participate in a televised game to the death that allows only one winning victor to ascent from the arena (the size of a city itself, so large that it takes days to eliminate 23 participants known as “tributes”). 74 years of games has turned most of the Capitol people into bread and circuses decadents, like the hedonistic Roman Empire. President Snow continues these games as a reminder that all Districts are powerless in the face of the Capitol and that any attempts at overthrowing his government would be futile. Non-empathetic citizens still root for the courageous young who fight with spirit and boldness in the face of battle. The winner at least gets to live the rest of his/her life in comfort and abundance.

Physically, Lawrence has the more limber and dexterous abilities. Steinfeld, the runner-up in this casting pageant, had a special way in “True Grit” of talking fast. Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” though had a way of moving fast. Both actresses are self-preserving, judicious thinkers – they are more practical than emotional. Still, my hat’s off for Lawrence and glad that she’s in as Katniss. Now, I’d say, the whole damn thing would have to have been scrapped had either actress turned it down. Kristen Stewart? Dakota Fanning? Chloe Moretz? Robot girls, if you ask me. Abigail Breslin? How wussy would that have been? Are we joking?

My next big concern though isn’t about who’s going to play Peeta or Gale (I’d pick Liam Hemsworth and Gaspard Ulliel respectively if I could), it’s whether Gary Ross can pull this off as a director on both a technical level and on a tonal level. He’s a talented man as evident with “Pleasantville” and “Seabiscuit.” Those movies needed their unaffected pacing. “The Hunger Games” needs rush, urgency and torrential furor. But does he realize that the world of Panem he’s dramatizing is as horrendously atmospheric and likewise to George Orwell’s “1984”? It’s Ross who needs to toughen up to do justice to Suzanne Collins’ books.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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