SPOILER ALERT. There are a FEW in here. Not too many.
My first thought when I saw Effie Trinket on screen was “Oh my god! It’s Johnny Depp in Drag! …Is this a Tim Burton movie?”
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while a movie comes out that is better than the book. This is one of those cases. This production could have gone two ways, it could be a fast action movie with a strong message, or it could take the icky Twilight, angsty, romancy, path. I am so glad that director Gary Ross chose the path that ROCKS!
I really wasn’t sure what to make of the filmography at first. It was grainy, there were weird camera angles, lots of jittering and jarring around, almost to the point of making the audience dizzy. Once I got used to it I realized how brilliantly this movie is filmed. There is an impression of watching on a huge television screen, like what you would imagine it would look like if you really were watching the Hunger Games as a live program.
This movie is about contrasts. The costuming, and the greyish / washed out coloring in the districts is reminiscent of poverty in a 1930’s Nazi Germany police state, but the white storm trooper outfits on the guards implied that this was in the future and not the past. The district scenes are a stark contrast to the lush, green forest outside the district fencing, where Katniss and Gale find their only freedom. Suddenly we have an extreme close up of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), a synthetic Depp Dragette, complete with pink and white clown make up. She is totally out of context in both the district or the forest. The capital itself is outrageously garish, seemingly an entire city of drag queens. The surreal nature of the city symbolizes the frivolity and the shallowness of the reigning culture; it is a perfect parody of our own. I also thought it was brilliant how natural looking our protagonists were. Lawrence and Hutcherson wore very little make up if any at all. Hollywood has a tendancy to “make” the actors look natural in a contrived way, not so with this movie and it was a smart move. It was contast again between what was real and what was fake, between the reality of the life of hardship in the districts vs the life of luxury, opulence and decadence in the city.
Debra Zane did a great job in casting these characters. Jennifer Lawrence has a natural beauty that compliments a character who is most comfortable in the forest. Lawrence did a high wire balancing act; portraying a youth who’s lost her innocence to life’s harsh circumstances, yet she was able to maintain a sense of naivety.
Josh Hutcherson (Road to Tarabithia), is perfect as Peeta. Does anyone else think it’s amusing that the baker’s son is named after
Actor Josh Hutcherson in Fantastic Fest 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
a piece of flatbread? When girls in the audience say “Peeta is HOT”, I wonder if they realize it sounds like they’re talking about a toasted sandwich. (Stephen King was right; the names in this novel are a bit silly.) Hutcherson’s “Micheal J. Fox, boy next door” wholesomeness hides an element of cunning that should not be underestimated. I’ve always liked Josh Hutcherson, I can’t help but wonder what turn his career will take now that he’s become a teen heartthrob.
My favorite character was Haymitch, Woody Harrelson offered a tragic yet hopeful figure and the only comic relief in a VERY intense movie. I was waiting to see him fall off the stage at the reaping. I wonder why they didn’t put that in.
Donald Sutherland was delightfully evil as President Snow. He’s so good at being bad.
What I liked MOST about this movie is that it takes place OUTSIDE of Katniss’s head. Audiences are smart, we don’t need it explained to us, and we don’t have to hear all that painful teenage angst to know that it’s going on. Also, we get to actually see behind the scenes.
The politics of the situation and the games Haymitch plays off the court on their behalf to keep them alive. (This is how the BOOK should be written!) I do wish there were more scenes of Katniss’s family back home showing their horror of what their loved one is forced to do to survive. When they cut to Rew’s family and her districts reaction to her death, it was the most powerful moment of the film.
I haven’t read the second book. I’m starting to think that perhaps I don’t want to ruin the film for myself and maybe I’ll just wait until the next one comes out.