First, a confession: I haven’t read a single one of the books in the trilogy, despite the badgering of my friends, and I walked into last night’s premiere of the ‘Hunger Games’ without having a slightest idea of the premise. That’s probably why I was so scandalized when I found out the concept behind the movie: Umm, did you know the entire plot revolves around a televised game where two dozen poor children have to fight to the death, merely for the entertainment of rich people? I joked with my friends that it was an accurate observation of modern society, particularly if we get some of those Republican candidates in the White House. But upon proper reflection, a poor people Super Bowl of death is pretty messed up.
Apart from this point – and I’ll get back to that in a minute – the movie itself was suspenseful, brilliantly made and captured my attention from the very first scene to the climatic, sequel-alluding final one. I didn’t look at my phone once; well, they had confiscated our cell phones when we came to the premiere, so I couldn’t have if I wanted to anyway.
Some other notes: I was surprised that there were so few scenes with Miley Cyrus’ arm candy and alleged hottie Liam Hemsworth (who is the other Hemsworth boy, who is not Thor), and I was thrilled to see Josh Hutcherson have such a major role, who played the sensitive boy in the Kids Are Alright. The majority of the film, however, belonged to Academy Award-nominated Jennifer Lawrence, who is a fine little actress. I saw flashes of a young Elizabeth Taylor in more than a few scenes, and I’m a big fan of her round, pleasant looking face. (Where are this girl’s fashion campaigns already?)
Since we’re speaking of looks, I was unexpectedly inspired by the costumes of the citizens of The Capital. I’ll throw one of Elizabeth Banks’ city looks below, seen with the dowdy poor people looks of Lawrence’s people. They were very old-school-John-Galliano-meets-a-young-Zac-Posen-and-this-season-Alexis-Mabille-couture, with Pat McGrath doing some colorful face painting. Stanley Tucci, who I love to see in movies even when he’s not playing a big gay queen (see: ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ ‘Burlesque’), looked resplendent in a blue messy bun, blue eyebrows and Chiclet-sized artificial teeth. And who doesn’t want to see Lenny Kravitz in a gilded eye liner?
Final thoughts: It was a good movie, and a tense, enjoyable way to spend 140 minutes. Yet walking out of that theater and into the Calvin Klein and Cinema Society-hosted after party at the Standard Hotel, I couldn’t help but feel just a wee bit dirty that in this movie (and the book that inspired it), which is aimed at teenagers and young adults, there were so many kids actually killing other kids. One boy in the film, who doesn’t look old enough to legally buy cigarettes, is a trained assassin and snaps another child’s neck in broad daylight.
Look, I know adolescent murder isn’t a new concept or anything (Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Fear’ was my favorite movie in high school), but between the school shootings and all these anti-bullying campaigns being shoved down my throat, this seemed shocking. We live in a society that says violent video games and heavy metal music are responsible for spurring kids to go into their high schools with shot guns under the trench coats – but no one is batting an eyelash when Hollywood makes a glossy film that shows a beautiful black teenage girl getting speared in the heart by another child? To make this point even more ironic, across town last night, Harvey Weinstein had organized a screening of Bully, a documentary aimed at raising awareness at hostility and violence in high schools. To be clear, I’m not complaining. I liked the movie, and I know it will be a huge success. I guess I’m just scared that the premise is too on the nose.