I took my kids to see The Hunger Games yesterday. I think I may have been more excited to see it than they were, even though my oldest read the books so fast he practically ate them. This won't be a review, though I did love the movie. It's more of a musing about why I like the story so much. And for me, it comes down to character development. While the characters in young adult books are generally pretty black and white depictions - it seems to me that "obvious" is the rule in "YA", nuance not part of the program - Katniss seems to have her gray areas. Or at least contradictions. She's complicated! Yes she's tough. Yes she's pretty pissed. Yes she's fiercely protective of her family, primarily her little sister, Prim. These are the notes she generally strikes. She's a stoic competitor having been raised in the darkest of circumstances in District 12 (the coal mining district), having lost her father as a young girl, and having stepped into take care of the family when her mom had a breakdown.
But she's a stoic who knows she isn't really all that tough. She weeps uncontrollably when Rue is lost to the Games. She orders her mother not to cry or fall apart after the Reaping, though she herself can't stop shaking. She falls into Peeta's affection and comfort though she'd never ask for it. I like this gal. And yes, I can relate. I've been called a "stoic" as well, by former gymnasts from my competing days. I was surprised by this assessment of my carriage during competition, during training. I felt like a mess, one step away from falling apart at all times. But I suppose I held it together. Through injuries, through disappointments, through losses. I learned the stoic's demeanor at a young age. Weakness in the gym, amongst competitors, got you no where. And I suppose Katniss feels the same way.
Will she accept kindness when it is offered? Surely. Will she ask for it... no way. But that is the lesson in adulthood - for me. To be willing to ask for help. To be willing to fall apart a little. Or a lot, if that is where it goes. Being a divorced mother of two doesn't help here really. Not a ton of places to go to ask for help. It's reinforcing my inclination towards stoicism as I actively try to unlearn these behaviors. It's a quandary, no doubt.
But back to the movie. I like Katniss. I relate to her. And Jennifer Lawrence played a mean Katniss. She's not too perfect looking. She's pretty but not preciously so. Yes she's older than the Katniss in the books but I'm not sure it matters. I suppose the weight of being the family caretaker is that much more intense when Katniss is fifteen as she is in the book. Whereas Jennifer Lawrence (not sure how old she is) reads more like 20. But her situation is still rough. She's had to volunteer for the Games to protect Prim! The Games are a fight to the death to pay penance and/or homage to a dastardly government who supposedly protects it's citizens from deathly uprisings. Someone a little older - and twenty isn't exactly old - brings some gravitas to the part. Worked for me, though I know some folks are a little riled up over it. Simmer down, it is just a movie. There is some license taken when translating a book into a movie. This worked in my humble opinion.
Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Loved. Lennie Kravitz as Cinna - worked for me, though I pictured Cinna way gay-er in the book. I pictured him as an over the top hair stylist, with Queer Eye for the Straight Gal flamboyance. But Lennie brought some dignity to the role, even with the gold eyeliner. And Josh Hutcherson as Peeta? Worked for me! Sweet, empathetic, kind but not useless. Strong, protective. Honorable. Woody as Haymitch? He treated Haymitch with a tad more kindness and dignity than the book conveyed. He clearly drank too much in the movie but he didn't come across as an angry, hopeless drunk. He kinda had it together. His heart still a bit more in tact than it seemingly was on the printed page. I wouldn't have minded a bit more darkness in that character. Rue - darling. Heartbreaking. How did I have no idea that she was black from the books? That the black people all came from District 11? I missed that racial commentary somehow.
So there. I liked everyone. I liked it all. Can't wait for the next one. And yes I'm a little too into the whole thing. But not really. It's fun to get swept up every once in a while though.