POSTED March 20 2012

Jennifer Lawrence Hits the Bullseye in “The Hunger Games”

In Winter’s Bone Jennifer Lawrence skins a squirrel. In The Hunger Games she takes aim at a stag using homemade bow and arrow. Her Katniss Everdeen is a futuristic Diana, huntress and hunted, a hardscrabble goddess who scrounges for food and fights for her life in a televised event that’s a cross between Survivor and The Bachelor except that it’s not a reality show, it’s reality.

Lawrence is smashing in every meaning of the expression. As this gladiator in Gary Ross’ parable based on the  young-adult trilogy from Suzanne Collins, Lawrence hits the bullseye. Don’t let the Zellweggery cheeks fool you. There’s a resolute quality to Lawrence’s  face that brings to mind Dorothea Lange’s portrait of the migrant laborer unbowed by hunger and adversity. To this pageant of kill-or-be-killed, Lawrence brings an unexpected humanism. For Katniss it’s less important to vanquish the enemy than it is to support the friend.

The movie itself? Like Ross’ Pleasantville, it’s a cautionary tale that demands we ask how our media gets mediated. Its propulsive action doesn’t permit a whole lot of reflection. I wonder whether the amped-up TV spectacle it presents both exploits and its critical of such spectacle.

Thoughts about Lawrence? Like everyone else I was wowed by her in Winter’s Bone  and thought she did a lot with a small, almost wordless, parts in Like Crazy and The Beaver. She was a strapping mutant in X-Men: First Class. Alternatively, thoughts about The Hunger Games?


  1. Joe says:

    I hesitate to use that cheesy show-biz expression but Jennifer Lawrence is every inch a Star. She has it all, most of all her youth, that I now wonder if she can sing and dance as well. Anyone thinking of making a belated film of “Promises, Promises,” can look no further for your female lead. And she should fit right in beside Meryl Streep in the planned film of Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County.” Re the film itself, it sucks you in, no matter how you try to resist. But I’m curious, Carrie, about these projects that are aimed at young people (“Harry Potter,” Twilight” and now “The Hunger Games”) into which adults buy. That seems to be the most fascinating culture phenomenom these days. Why? Any theories? Are we adults living vicariously through kids and their entertainment? Or is this new entertainment age-friendly? Share!

  2. Carrie Rickey says:

    @Joe: May I quote from Molly Haskell’s “Frankly, My Dear,” her penetrating analysis of “Gone With the Wind”:

    “Perhaps we shouldn’t be too embarrassed to claim Gone With the Wind” as our Young Adult masterpiece, the national epic of a Young Adult country.”

    We should remember that Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara and Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen are teenagers who survive war.

  3. Horse Badorties says:

    The thing I loved about Lawrence in Bone was the way her body movement through the woods and hills conveyed this complete sense of a poor, world weary young woman with a lot on her plate. She communicated this exhaustion, but also a larger sense of someone who would stop at nothing to keep her family going. It was almost tribal. The only other actress that conveyed that bottom-rung authenticity for me was the young Laura Dern. Mare Winningam also. Hope Lawrence holds out for meaty roles and doesn’t go all HW on us.

  4. Joe says:

    Good point, Carrie. Silly question from me, given that I still think like a teenager.

  5. Samuel says:

    And where is the facebook like link ?

  6. Late to the party, I know, but I thought The Hunger Games was, like so many “decent” films these days a piece of well made junk. Jane read the books, which weren’t great, but at least resonated with more moral depth than this film (which, given the rough subject matter, owed its young audience a lot more than the surface-level-another-dead-kid’s-body-damn, it offered). I wonder what was exised in editing in order to arrive at an acceptable running time. Ms. Lawrence was very good but her careless (I hope) anti-PETA comments make me never want to see her face or read about her again. As that memorable Raymond Chandler quote had it, clearly her brains are all in her face. Curtis

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