Mockingjay Part 1

Rating:

LISTEN TO THE MOCKINGBIRD

Main Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Director: Francis Lawrence

Indy's_whip by Edward Lund

I should be able to incorporate the Indiana Jones whip nicely into a tap number.

Fabulous news dear readers! I knew a production worthy of my talents would turn up shortly.  I have just gotten off the telephone with Steven Spielberg.  Darling Steve has conquered pretty much every filmic genre out there over the last forty years save one, the musical.   He has decided the time has come for him to fill that void in his resume and he has chosen me to be his chief collaborator and leading lady on his new project.   Apparently he has been quite impressed by the success of Into the Woods and he wants to use a similar mash-up structure for his musical film extravaganza.  We’re going to take the characters and plots of many of his past hits and put them in the blender and press frappe and come up with something new and ingenious.  Just imagine Indiana Jones, E.T., Private Ryan, Miss Celie and Oskar Schindler all singing and dancing together.  It’s going to be perfectly splendid.  Normy and I are forming a new production company, Star is Born pictures, to take over all the great responsibilities such an undertaking is going to generate.  Steve is giving me carte blanche going into pre-production so I have a feeling we’ll be doing some hiring around Chateau Maine before too long.

Steven Spielberg by Georges Biard

Steve says hello to the advent of his most successful project ever!

I of course will have to lock down some of the talents I know I will need in creating a work of such monumental artistic importance.  Calls are going out to Dr. Paul and the Lena Lamont singers, Mr. Carl and Lulu Pigg for choreographic help and Mme. Mimi my vocal therapist to help get me into proper shape for all the singing I will have to do.  Looking through the works of Spielberg, I know I will need a writer who will be able to assimilate all his brilliance, make wise character choices, and of course come up with a central female role for me.  I wonder if Stephen King is available?  The creative process is also going to require that I find a leading man up to my talents with a terrific baritone, strong presence and an immediately available schedule.  I better start checking my back issues of Operetta Today to see if anyone leaps off the page.

Normy and I decided to celebrate this stroke of good fortune by heading off to the Cineplex where we caught a matinee of the latest in The Hunger Games saga, Mockingjay, Part I.  I have been somewhat ambivalent about this series of films.  I found the original film somewhat off putting with its emphasis on herky jerky camera movements in an attempt to disguise the violence and a writer/director (Gary Ross) afraid to show the sweep and scope of the story with wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity in terms of both epic film making and character development.  The film was redeemed by the fine performance of Jennifer Lawrence, Hollywood’s latest ‘it’ girl in the central role of Katniss with stalwart support by Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks.  The studio must have recognized the problems as well for Ross was summarily removed from the sequels and replaced with director Francis Lawrence and a bevy of new screenwriters.  Catching Fire was an improvement over the original film with a stronger narrative line and cinematography which no longer induced motion sickness.   The third of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels has been turned into two films ensuring enough time to process all the character development necessary, tie up all the plot threads, and sell twice as many tickets.

Mockingjay, Part I begins immediately after the events of Catching FireKatniss, after her defeat of the arena and rescue by the drunken Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and game designer Plutarch Hevansby (Philip Seymour Hoffman), has been spirited away to the mysterious District 13, a drab, regimented underground society in opposition to the Capital under the leadership of the authoritarian President Coin (Julianne Moore).  The rebels decide that their best chance to take a stand against the Capital under the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is through a symbol of resistance that will cause the outlying districts to rise in rebellion and that Katniss with her history of televised defiance will be that symbol known as the Mockingjay.  Staged propaganda doesn’t work and so Katniss and her loyal friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) are thrown into the beginning stages of armed conflict as the rising districts go on the offensive against the Capital.  Meanwhile, the loyal Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capital and being used for propaganda ends of its own and the vapid Effie (Elizabeth Banks), now a refugee from the Capital in District 13, tries to bring a little glamor to Katniss and herself in the drab bunker in which they now find themselves.  Will Katniss and Peeta be reunited?  Will she choose Peeta or Gale?  Who will win the battle between the Capital and District 13?  We have to wait until Mockingjay, Part II to find out.

This film, like the one before, remains a solid genre film, made palatable by Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific performanceJennifer Lawrence in the central role.  She inhabits Katniss with a surety that allows us to read all sorts of emotional textures with her eyes and body language.  When she’s on screen, it’s tough to watch anyone else.  As the third film in a four film series, it doesn’t really stand alone and anyone who approaches the film without having seen the previous two or read the novels will be hopelessly lost.  The screenplay is serviceable if somewhat paint by numbers and does its best to give all of the familiar characters some moments.  Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland come off best.

It’s difficult to know what to say about the film in general.  It’s more like a course of a dinner than a meal and hard to rate outside of the full series.  There are some good set pieces such as a raid on a hydroelectric damn or Katniss’s discovery that President Snow has had a vicious bombing raid ended with a carpet bombing of white roses as a personal message.  The cat and mouse between the two presidents using Katniss and Peeta as warring propaganda pawns is the best piece of the film and likely to go over the heads of the tween audience that the film is obviously wooing.  All of the dangling plot threads, presumably to be resolved in Part II also give the film a majorly unfinished feeling.  If you’re a fan, go see it.  If you haven’t seen the prequels, skip it.

Bad tempered cat.  Firebombed town. Propaganda filming. Explosive arrows.  Gratuitous lumberjack rebellion.  Collapsing dam.  Festive turbans. Field hospital. Gratuitous Patina Miller. Daring commando raid. 

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

photos by Edward Lund and Georges Biard

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