Film

The Five Best Non-Jennifer Lawrence Parts Of Catching Fire

Yes, they actually exist. Let's talk about them for a change.

I love Jennifer Lawrence, you love Jennifer Lawrence, the whole internet loves Jennifer Lawrence, and with good reason: she’s bloody delightful. Nobody does better interviews or tells grosser anecdotes than she does, nobody rocks a bob better, and nobody trips at The Oscars with more charm and class. She’s also a pretty talented actress.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire came out in cinemas last week, and of course, Jennifer Lawrence is great in it, reprising the role of the bow and arrow-toting badass, Katniss Everdeen. Y’know what, though? The movie also features a lot of other great performances from a lot of people who aren’t Jennifer Lawrence. With apologies to Jennifer Lawrence, who is still my best girl crush and future BFF, let’s talk about them for a change.

Jena Malone as Johanna Mason

The marketing campaign for Catching Fire was effective because it kept a lot of things hidden. Foremost among these was the character of Johanna Mason. When word came out that Jena Malone would be playing the angst-ridden, axe-wielding District 7 tribute, fans were dying to get a look, but the trailers kept the character pretty well under wraps.

This makes her eventual entrance in Catching Fire all the more effective. Johanna first encounters Katniss and pals in an elevator in the Capitol. She slinks in, eyes them off, and then strips off her costume right in front of them. It’s a surprising and humorous scene, one of many that will go down in the annals of gif history.

JenaMalone

Ooh, so mean.

Jena Malone, who gave memorable performances in Saved! (2004) and Donnie Darko (2001), makes for a perfect Johanna Mason, offering just the right mix of steely toughness and dry, sarcastic wit. She makes Johanna seem real, the kind of character who would actually be a smart and formidable foe in the Hunger Games arena. Catching Fire could be the movie that knocks Kristen Stewart off her pedestal, and allows Jena Malone to reclaim her rightful place as the queen of resting bitch face.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

Poor, silly Effie Trinket is one of the most interesting characters in the Hunger Games series. Basically a human dollop of candy floss, it’s Effie’s job to draw the names of District 12’s male and female tributes each year and then keep them upbeat on their trip to the Capitol as they face down almost certain death.

In the books, we see her through the eyes of narrator Katniss, who views her with a mixture of pity, contempt and grudging affection — she represents the worst of the Capitol, but it’s hard to truly hate her because she just seems so damned sweet. Catching Fire is Effie’s moment to really shine, and Elizabeth Banks brings real depth to the character.

Banks is a hugely gifted comic actress, and plays Effie with a lot of ambiguity. Just how does she feel about her job leading lambs to the slaughter? Do her increasingly-elaborate outfits mask a deeper pain, or is she actually just that frivolous and silly? Her affection certainly seems genuine as she clucks over Katniss and Peeta.

EffieSNL

SNL‘s Kate McKinnon positively killed it as Effie Trinket on last week’s Josh Hutcherson-hosted episode.

Trinket’s character is absent for a lot of Mockingjay, returning only near the end of the story, so Catching Fire is probably the last glimpse we’ll get of her for a while. Thankfully, Elizabeth Banks makes the most of it.

Effie

Lynn Cohen as Mags

You probably know Lynn Cohen best from her role on Sex And The City as Miranda’s Eastern European housekeeper-slash-indentured servant, Magda. Seriously, is it just me or did Magda never leave the house? It’s like Miranda kept her chained up in a cupboard and let her out every now and then to dispense wisdom from the old country and snoop around in drawers.

In Catching Fire, Cohen gives a touching performance as Mags, the oldest participant in the 75th Hunger Games. Mags doesn’t speak and needs to be carried wherever she goes. She knows she won’t make it out of the arena alive, but volunteers anyway to take the place of Finnick Odair’s poor, mad lover Annie as District 4’s female tribute.

The role of Mags is mostly silent, so Cohen communicates the character through looks and gestures, radiating warmth and kindness with just the hint of a crafty gleam in her eye. Also, Lynn Cohen is 80 and can still rock the hell out of a spandex bodysuit.

Hunger Games Mags

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman

The bad guys are often the most fun, and Stanley Tucci revels in the role of Caesar Flickerman, the slimy Hunger Games host. A role in a franchise film like this could be an easy paycheque for an experienced actor, but Tucci really throws himself into the part of Flickerman with abandon.

The character’s name tells you everything you need to know: ‘Caesar’ because he represents decadence and debauchery, and ‘Flickerman’ because his enthusiastic TV host schtick is so creepily transparent and fake. If Effie feels conflicted about her role in bringing children to the slaughter, Flickerman revels in it, and Stanley Tucci strikes just the right creepy notes.

Tucci

Did it really, though?

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee

If you weren’t already aware of the fact that Catching Fire is a classy affair, the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman ought to clue you in, ’cause nothing shouts prestige like a bit of Hoffman. From The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) to The Master (2012), he excels at playing characters who are both disgusting and riveting, and Plutarch is another one of these.

Plutarch

Classic Hoffman smug-face.

Yes, the name Plutarch Heavensbee is very, very silly; everyone on the internet has already noted this, and you just need to get over it. Hoffman’s particular brand of smug charm makes him perfect for the role and he’s captivating from his first appearance, as he and Katniss dance together at President Snow’s ball, playing mind games and trying to figure each other out.

Plutarch is a much bigger presence in Mockingjay, and I say the more Hoffman the better. The fact that he’ll get to play alongside Julianne Moore as Alma Coin — hello, prestige casting — only makes it more exciting.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is now showing in cinemas nationally.