Admittedly, I didn’t think Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook was nearly as brilliant as everyone said it was.
It was overly boasted about and, hence, when she won the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress earlier this year, however predictable it was, I wasn’t impressed.
As Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, however, Jennifer Lawrence (who will appear in David O’Russell’s American Hustle later this year) owns. She completely embodies the essence of this character and, if it weren’t for Lawrence, this movie wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it was – supporting characters, plot, action, and directing aside. Lawrence carries this movie from start to finish, and the sequel to last year’s The Hunger Games plays up her strengths as an actress.
I didn’t think Silver Linings Playbook showcased Lawrence’s abilities nearly that well, but Lawrence brings everything she has to the role of Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence’s particular skill-set relies on her ability to convey so much emotion with just one look. So much of what Katniss goes through in the movie is internal. Since participating in the last Hunger Games, Katniss is a little more fragile, but more guarded. She was never a people person to begin with, but her experiences in the first Hunger Games movie has amplified those feelings. She’s dealing with PTSD, the traumatic experience of having killed and having to watch kids close to her age die, the loss of people she was close to (Rue is mentioned multiple times in Catching Fire), and the sheer hopelessness of this totalitarian world.
Haymitch tells her the hard facts – that she’ll never be free from the Capitol or President Snow. There’s a particularly chilling scene between Katniss and Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, in the beginning of the movie. Later, Snow, frustrated by unrest in the various Districts thanks to Katniss’ unwitting influence, takes someone else’s advice and calls for a Hunger Games: Reunion. All the old victors are required to participate in the tournament again, and that includes Katniss, of course. The goal here is for Katniss to die, but most importantly, for the image of Katniss to fade from people’s memories.
To the impoverished Districts, Katniss represents hope and a chance to fight back. Gale and Katniss’ sister Prim tell her as much, but Katniss never intended to become a symbol. She just wants to live in peace and make sure that her family is safe. And that’s what makes Katniss such a relatable character. She’s not your archetypical superhero, like Superman or Batman. She doesn’t answer to a higher calling, nor does she see herself as the protector of those who can’t protect themselves. She’s just a girl trying to get by.
Despite its 2 hours and 26 minutes running time, Catching Fire hardly feels long. There’s enough plot, action, and momentum to keep you engaged.
Neither Josh Hutcherson’s nor Liam Hemsworth’s performances come close to Lawrence’s. Thankfully, the love triangle never takes center-stage, as there are far more important things going on – like surviving.
In Catching Fire, the stakes have been doubled, with a revolution about to boil over – something we’ll see come to pass in next year’s Mockingjay – Part 1. It’s leagues above the first movie, with a better script and better directing. To start with, the sequel doesn’t have the shaky camera problem of the first Hunger Games, which you can thank director Francis Lawrence – who took the reins from Gary Ross – for. The supporting characters are a lot more interesting; I found Johanna (Jena Malone) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) particularly memorable. The budget is also twice that of The Hunger Games, and it definitely shows.
We rarely get female-led movie franchises and Catching Fire shows how successful they can be, both critically (something the Twilight franchise was sorely lacking) and commercially. Go watch it in theaters – trust me, it is worth the time and money.
- Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland
- Director: Francis Lawrence
- Running Time: 146 minutes
- Genre: Action, Adventure