NOW IS THE TIME WHEN WE TALK ABOUT HUNGER GAMES

Posted on March 27, 2012

First things first — the tours are almost over and have been a whopping success! So, so great to meet all of you who came to Oxford, Doylestown, Salt Lake City, Miami, Atlanta, LA, the Somerset Festival, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth! Does reading that list exhaust you? Well, doing it has tuckered me right out. I am currently taking a few days of R&R before heading to Auckland, NZ, for my final BALTHAZAR promotional event this Saturday. (If you’re in Auckland, or can be, I hope you will be there!)

But for now I must talk to you, o kindred spirits, about “The Hunger Games” movie, which I saw in Perth:

I LOVED IT.

Seriously, I adored it. I had high hopes from the get-go, but the film adaptation went beyond my wildest expectations.

Let’s get a few quibbles out of the way first, though:

Stuff I disliked:

1) Diminishing Thresh — No, Thresh isn’t a major character in the book, but we get a very real sense of him as a person with both courage and integrity. IMHO, that didn’t come across in the movie. Yes, he agrees to let Katniss go once for Rue’s sake … but he does so angrily, and the moment passes in an instant. Since Thresh was someone I cared about far more than, say, Clove or Marvel, I wish we’d had the two more minutes of screen time that would have defined him more.

2) President Snow Rigs the Games — Don’t get me wrong: of course he rigs the Games. But I thought that element of it was introduced a little too early. President Snow has it out for Katniss in the movie before it should even be clear that Katniss is a threat. The same scene twenty minutes later in the film would have been far more believable to me.

Stuff I wasn’t sure about:

Haymitch — Woody Harrelson is SO not how I would have gone for Haymitch, and yet I thought he delivered a terrific performance. It’s a totally valid interpretation of the character, and one that has me intrigued to learn more about him in a way I never fully felt in the books. However — is he too together? In every scene he has in the film, Harrelson makes it clear that Haymitch is the guy who outlasted everyone else in his Games, who has taken life many times and could easily do it again. (That moment where he puts his foot against Peeta’s chest? I didn’t doubt for a second that Haymitch could’ve killed him with that foot if he wanted to.) And, yes, on one level that’s who that character is. But Haymitch is supposed to be a total wreck. While I can accept the different interpretation in this film, in CATCHING FIRE, one of the rationales behind Peeta taking Haymitch’s place in the Quarter Quell is that Haymitch wouldn’t stand a chance with his aging, alcoholic body. Harrelson’s Haymitch? If he went in, I’d lay odds on him to win. Like I say, it’s not that it doesn’t work, because it does; it’s more that I wonder how it plays out long-term.

Stuff I loved:

ALL OF IT

Ahem.

1) Jennifer Lawrence – love her, love her, love her. As many of you know, I was kind of rooting for Haylee Stenfield to get the part (and I still think she’d have been good), but that was never an anti-Jennifer Lawrence stand. Have loved her since “Winter’s Bone,” and she just nailed it here in every scene.

2) Josh Hutcherson — for the first ten minutes, I wasn’t at all sure about him. He wasn’t grabbing me; I hardly knew whether to like him or distrust him. And then of course it hit me, That’s EXACTLY how you should feel about Peeta at that point. As the film went on, his performance expanded to fill our greater understanding of the character, and in the end I thought he utterly nailed it.

3) Elizabeth Banks — This is probably the single performance that came closest to my idea of the character in the books. (Which is not the be-all end-all — I am always open to an interpretation that expands our idea of the people we’ve read about — but it is nonetheless satisfying.) She was fabulous, and am I the only one that thought she and Haymitch might have had a very self-destructive thing back in the day?

4) Oh heck all the other performances — Donald Sutherland = magnificent. Lenny Kravitz = magnificent. Stanley Tucci = I will be building an altar to you at my next convenience. So, so good.

5) The overall look and feel — this very much captured the Capitol in its decadence, the Games in their ferocity and District 12 in its desperation. (I finally came around to the nicer dresses in the Reaping scene, as that was explained, though I still think Ktniss’ leather jacket should look a little more worn, a little less tailored.) And as over the top and futuristic as so much of it was, I thought it retained credibility throughout. I was really able to get lost in it.

6) The suspense — there were several moments where I found myself holding my breath in fear and, you know, I know how it ends. Good job, Gary Ross.

So, did you guys enjoy it as much as I did?

BTW, it will be a while before I reply — this tropical town is short on internet — but I definitely want to hear what you think!

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