Monday, March 26, 2012

Gary Ross: The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games, Lionsgate Films, 2012.

With the new year, a new chapter has begun in the filmization of anotherYA fiction series. Harry Potter and Twilight are both about to be dust, so far as many of their ADD trendy fans are concerned. Time to move on to Suzanne Collins' hugely popular action-sci-fi-morality tale, beginning with the bristling, meandering, fascinating The Hunger Games.

As envisioned by gifted writer-director Gary Ross, Collins' eponymous first tome falls somewhere between Twilight and The Running Man; all the teen yearning for romance in the former, all of the genre trappings encasing a parable for modern American society in the latter. Ross gives it all a queasy patina of camp, Oz by way of Circus Circus, yet alternately grounded in some semblance of our reality.

A main strength in the film is Jennifer Lawrence as our heroine, Katness Everdene. We believe in her, and yet, she will not let us in all the way.  She is both mysterious and endearing. Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland all bask in the fun of their roles. In the end, Lawrence's conviction and Ross' vision are what stay with us most from the exhausting experience.

Ross captures several breathtaking sequences, reminding us of his strengths as an auteur with Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Both of those remarkable achievements were his odes to The Wizard of Oz and Frank Capra. More of that can definitely be found here; Orwell and Bradbury certainly inspired Collins to write this in the first place; its the weaknesses of Collins' plot which deters Ross from sculpting a more succinct motion picture. James Newton Howard manipulates the strings to realize an aural world of familiar murmurs to mirror Ross' creation.

While the themes of oppression, starvation, invasion of privacy, poverty, and reality television are more pertinent than ever, the message is only semi-received. It is buried intermittently throughout this irrevocable piece of pop trash.

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