Has Jennifer Lawrence Outgrown The Hunger Games?

This piece was originally written and published for The Georgetown Voice. Read it there, and check out their latest issue!

Jennifer Lawrence is a bona fide superstar. At a tender 24 years old, the actress has won an Oscar and starred in multiple blockbuster films. In the two years since the release of The Hunger Games, Lawrence has gone from living in relative obscurity to being designated as one of the most versatile performers in the industry. The most recent release of the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, however, has left many wondering whether the precocious Lawrence has outgrown the role that launched her into stardom.

Besides her onscreen success in films, Lawrence’s casual, fun-loving personality has earned her the adoration of fans of all ages. From playing games with Jimmy Fallon to fangirling over Damien Lewis, she is capable of entertaining self-effacement in all arenas. Unfortunately, it seems like this otherwise wonderful disposition worked against her, at least for The Hunger Games series. 

Katniss is fierce and relentlessly stern. During Part I, I found myself struggling to believe Lawrence in the role. She’s excelled in a wide variety of roles, but at times her new Katniss feels bored and stagnant. Perhaps this is at least partially due to Mockingjay’s overall stasis, hovering between the dramatic reveal of Catching Fire and the explosive conclusion yet to come. Nevertheless, the case remains that the Lawrence of a few years ago was better-suited to fill Katniss’ badass persona.

There are strong moments for Lawrence interspersed in Mockingjay, namely when Katniss takes down Capitol fighter jets and when she sings “The Hanging Tree.” But, for the most part, she lacks the stubborn gusto displayed in the preceding films. When she screams, “If we burn, you burn with us” at President Snow, her tone lacks the firepower characteristic of her zingers in the series’ first two installments. 

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people.com

Some early Lawrence fans feared her being stuck in the masses’ minds as Katniss, but now it appears the opposite has occurred. She has proven capable of being and doing so much that falling back into the guise of Katniss feels awkward—maybe even beneath her. The reason the Harry Potter franchise thrived as the movies progressed was the maturation taking place before our eyes: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were never anything except Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Lawrence, on the other hand, has been so many things and so many characters.

In Winter’s Bone, Lawrence showed us that she could play the rugged, outdoorsy type. So maybe, at the start, Katniss’ gruff persona was a perfect fit for the rising star. Indeed, her performance elevated an already popular series to the realm of worldwide obsession. Little did we know, she was also primed to do the same for her career as an actress and as an individual in the spotlight. 

Looking ahead, next year will most likely only serve to exacerbate the gap between the upstart talent originally cast as Katniss and the Lawrence we know today. Mockingjay – Part 2 comes next fall, but both before and after its release Lawrence will be seeking critical acclaim alongside Bradley Cooper, first with Serena early in the year and Joy much later during the holidays. Part 2 will easily rake in hundreds of millions at the box office and will probably do nothing to besmirch Lawrence’s image. But it is unclear if Lawrence will recapture the energy of the first two films.

She’s already been the second-youngest Best Actress winner and the youngest three-time nominee in the Academy’s history—suddenly being Katniss Everdeen is not quite as impressive. Sure, Part 1 served up plenty of entertainment, but it seems Lawrence’s rapid growth has expanded beyond the walls of the Capitol and its rebellious districts.

Those who follow and admire Katniss Everdeen know they need a strong heroine to take down the Capitol. Lawrence is more than strong enough, but her heart doesn’t seem to be in the role anymore. After three Hunger Games films, it feels like the Mockingjay has shot past her guise, done in by her own ability to set the screen on fire.

Image: flickeringmyth.com

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About Author: Brian McMahon

Brian is an author and co-founder of GoodWillWatching. He likes to write and is deathly afraid of bugs. His Great American Novel, not yet titled or existent, will be shocking the world some time or another. He once stayed up for two days straight because of poor information regarding the arrival of Halley’s Comet, which was not due for approximately 57 years. You can follow him @bm1313 on Twitter, or in real life from a safe distance.