Just re-watched the haunting 2010 film “Winter’s Bone” with K, who could barely watch the shocking climax. It struck me again (as it must have others) that the Oscar-nominated 17-yr-old “Ree”, saddled with looking after two younger siblings and a chronically depressed mother, seems to have been Jennifer Lawrence’s audition role for the role of “Katniss” in the now mega-hit “Hunger Games“. Bone is grittier, more realistic, and therefore more shocking in some ways, although I also liked the Games very much for the punch it packs. Especially for S, who falls in the demographic for which that story is written/filmed.
I wish, though, that Lawrence had stuck with Ree’s ragged wardrobe and stark Ozark environs, instead of Katniss’s rather designer poverty-chic duds and the faux-retro 1920s coal miner / Appalachian look of District 12. Why on earth did they choose to make the poor people of Panem’s District 12, which is set in some indeterminately distant future of North America, look like they were from early 20th century Appalachia? There are plenty of poor folks in Appalachia (and the Ozarks) even now, and they for sure don’t dress like their ancestors did a 100 years ago! Why would they go back in the future? The contemporary Ozarks landscape as depicted in Winter’s Bone – which was filmed on location in real contemporary homes in Missouri’s hinterland – carries more degradation and menace than anything in the production design of the Hunger Games‘ District 12.
Even S, who now likes to pretend she is Katniss with home-made bow-and-arrow prowling the woods in our suburban backyard on lazy springtime afternoons, found the movie’s Katniss too fancily dressed up (even before the reaping and the Capitol makeover) to be the real huntress on the pages of the powerful book. Its like Ree from the Ozarks got a makeover to become Katniss from District 12, who was then transformed into a shiny recruit in the hunger games, and eventually the symbolic Mockingjay. Guess which incarnation came closest to winning an Oscar and which one is sweeping the box office?
Why didn’t they get Debra Grabnik (who crafted the sucker punch packed in Winter’s Bone) to direct the Hunger Games franchise too instead of Gary Ross, who did a good enough job sticking close to the book, but smoothed some of the potentially rougher edges even in the production design? Will they draw courage from the box office success now to make the next two episodes look more realistically grittier (like the Harry Potter franchise did)? Let’s hope so.