Crying And Laughing In The Hunger Games: Our Guide


Last night, after much anticipation, we finally saw The Hunger Games. We’re assuming that you are aware of this dystopic young-adult novel turned blockbuster film about a noble and bad-ass girl fighting in a government-mandated death match with other teens and children. If not, you have likely not been on the Internet or walked by a movie theater as of late. The film is doing insanely well box office-wise. Those of you that are familiar with the story know that it’s actually quite emotional. The obvious and spoiler-free fact is that this is a story about death. Some of those deaths — the deaths of the “good guys” — are the type of scenes that are hard to render in such a way that fails to produce tears from even those that are less prone than others to wet eyes. (Full disclaimer: we are known to cry easily and frequently. Basically, we cried through this entire movie.) Even the deaths of the cruel characters, the ones that buy into the horrific violence encouraged by the totalitarian Capitol, are sad in their own way because the children have no agency in the face of an oppressive regime. But! And there is a but! The movie and its source material is not without lack of humor. That said, in the screening we saw, deeply serious moments were peppered with nervous laughing from the audience. So, here’s our — very subjective, mind you — guide to wrangling your Hunger Games emotions. We’ve tried to keep it relatively spoiler free, but that’s hard.

When will you cry?

This is the easy one. In our opinion, you’re basically free to cry anytime you want. We had initially gone into the theater wanting to chart the moments in which we were moved to tears, but it became too hard. There are two big tearjerker moments. The first comes quickly into the movie, when the protagonist Katniss volunteers for the Games in place of her young sister Prim. Prim’s tears and screams both at the Reaping and as she says goodbye to her sister are blood curdling, and the scenes are done with an eerie lack of ambient music. The second — and most obviously weep-worthy for anyone familiar with the books — comes in the latter half of the film when Katniss is already competing in the Games. After developing an alliance with a young competitor named Rue, similar in age to Prim, Katniss has to witness Rue’s death at the hands of another tribute. In the film it is not so much the shock of the death, but rather Katniss’ actions following it, that produced audible sobs from the audience. (Well, from us.)

When will you laugh?
The Capitol citizen’s absurd dress, muted in the book by lack of visual, becomes fairly absurd in the movie. Effie Trinket, essentially a PR lady extraordinaire played by Elizabeth Banks, has outlandish outfits and quippy dialogue. She is through all media one of the story’s best devices for comic relief. That said, her character takes a backseat to Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman, Games announcer. Tucci — who won me over forever with his delivery of the line “gird your loins” in The Devil Wears Prada — is bedecked in a blue buoyant hairstyle and eerily perfect fake teeth.

When will you not know whether to laugh, cry or remain stoic?
This is a problem that comes up quite frequently in the film. The silliness of the Capitol characters’ dress gets muted in the book when Katniss finally gets in the Arena to compete, because the story is delivered in first person. To compensate for a lack of interior monologue the film has characters like Flickerman pop up to explain things as the action moves along. However, the Arena no matter how you look at it is a frightening, sad place, and Flickerman’s interjections are bound to produce giggles. When you’re giggling though you’re invariably going to realize that you’re giggling about commentary on death.

The first person problem pops up again in the romance section. Not to give it away too much, but when Katniss internalizes her actions in the book they seem not quite so out of the blue. Therefore, you’re not necessarily provoked to laugh when she kisses Peeta, her fellow competitor who declared his love for her national TV, because it seems more like a political move. Furthermore, nods to the love triangle between her, her fellow competitor Peeta, and her friend back home Gale, in the film reek of a too obvious Jacob-Edward-Bella trope. We also just can’t get over the fact that Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale, is currently beau to Miley Cyrus.

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