Fans of The Hunger Games novel were grumpy when 21-year-old indie ingenue Jennifer Lawrence was cast as feisty 16-year-old heroine Katniss Everdeen for the film adaptation. Despite her Oscar-nominated turn in 2010's Winter's Bone, Lawrence was dismissed as too old, too blonde, too buxom, and too fair-skinned to play a waifish teen that author Suzanne Collins depicted as "olive-skinned, dark-haired, and [possibly] biracial." Now that the film, which follows Katniss as she's drafted to compete against 23 other teenagers in a reality-TV fight to the death, has finally hit theaters, critics and audiences have actually seen Lawrence's performance. The emerging verdict: She's "perfect." Does everyone agree?
No. She's all wrong: Lawrence's "seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission," says Manohla Dargis at The New York Times. Perhaps when she was younger, Lawrence "looked hungry enough to play Katniss." But it's not easy to portray one of the few action heroines who isn't a "vaguely sexualized" damsel in distress when you're as curvy as Lawrence. Worse, her bland, disengaged performance fails to convey the life-and-death terrors Katniss faces.
"Tested by a picturesque dystopia"
She's brilliantly cast: The movie's success or failure hinged on the casting of Katniss, who appears in nearly every scene, says Dana Stevens at Slate. "Producers nailed it in picking Jennifer Lawrence." She embodies this complicated girl: "Stolid, wary, a little dour, and resolutely un-boy-crazy." As for her appearance, she sells Katniss as "a young lady of substance" — beautiful without being too girly, athletic without being startlingly strong. It's a first-rate acting performance destined to catapult Lawrence to the A-list.
"The Hunger Games"
Lawrence crafts a new female icon: How depressing that pop culture's most resonant heroine has been Twilight's Bella Swan, a "blankly slack-jawed" bore as personified Kristen Stewart, says Moira Macdonald at The Seattle Times. We should all be thankful, then, for Lawrence's intense, nuanced characterization. Her Katniss is a "young women [with] a core of steel" who is thrust into a love triangle, but not defined by it. Lawrence wordlessly paints Katniss as "nearly feral yet neither predator nor prey." She creates a heroine who "is cause for celebration."
"The Hunger Games: Jennifer Lawrence is right on target"