The Hunger Games movie hits theaters today, and I’m ready—but barely. I finally picked up the books this week and blew through The Hunger Games trilogy in two days because the story is just that good.
I don’t usually see movies when they first come out; I hardly ever go to the theater at all. But I’m making an exception for The Hunger Games. And it’s not just because I loved the books; it’s also because Jennifer Lawrence is a hometown girl. And her offscreen story’s not bad, either.
***** ***** *****
Just a few years ago I was at a party at my parents’ house, and ended up out on the porch talking to Jennifer Lawrence’s mother. I don’t know Jen–I’m a decade older than she is–but our parents have known each other for years. I knew she was pursuing acting, knew she’d made it onto a sitcom, but I didn’t know the extent of it until her mother filled me in.
Her mom told me she and her husband were taking turns flying out to L.A. to live with Jen so she could pursue acting full-time. Mrs. Lawrence was very matter-of-fact about it all: Jen was too young to be living by herself in L.A., but since she’d landed some small parts and a steady sitcom gig, her family had decided to make it work.
I admired Jen’s resolve, her dreams, her commitment. I respected her family’s decision to make it possible for her to pursue her dream.
But I also thought they were crazy. Didn’t they know the odds in Hollywood? They were investing so much, but the chance of it paying off was so small.
***** ***** *****
Jen was soon cast in Winter’s Bone, a gritty film in which a meth-cooker’s teenage daughter tries to hunt him down in the Ozarks so she can save her family. I wasn’t interested in seeing it, but I paid attention to the film’s reception and read the reviews. I wanted to see the local girl do well, and it seemed she had.
I finally decided to give it a try after it appeared in a round-up of great films with redemption plots. I love a good redemption story, and I was interested in seeing Jen’s performance, so we rented it.
Winter’s Bone was great. Jen was fantastic. Mrs. Lawrence, I was wrong.
***** ***** *****
Jen nabbed an Oscar nomination for best actress for Winter’s Bone, and the roles came poring in. Last year, she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. (Which is not so unlike Winter’s Bone, with another spunky girl from coal country finding vast reserves of inner strength to overcome crushing adversity.)
This bit of Hollywood news didn’t mean much to me at the time. I didn’t know anything about The Hunger Games, and I utterly failed to grasp the significance of this role for my hometown actor.
So many of you raved about The Hunger Games that I finally decided to put it on my to-read list. About that time, I started seeing Hunger Games ads showing Jen gripping a bow and arrow, and I finally get it:
Jennifer Lawrence. is Katniss. in The Hunger Games.
The story is fantastic. The early reviews from trusted sources are excellent. This thing has blockbuster written all over it, and I’m excited to see it–and to see her–on the big screen (though sadly, probably not this weekend).
Back in 2009, Jen spoke with our hometown paper about her passion for acting: “Once I got the tiniest taste for this, I could never look back and I could never do anything else,” she said. “Thank God I have parents who could see that. They knew what was happening was real.”
Mrs. Lawrence, I’m looking forward to seeing Jen on the big screen. Maybe you all were a little crazy, but it’s sure paying off big. Here’s to beating the odds, and here’s to your daughter.
What about you? Have you read The Hunger Games? Are you going to see the movie?