Up Today: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and Brooklyn
Quick Take: Die-hard fans of Collins’s novels may find plenty to love in Mockingjay Part 2, but as the conclusion to series as large as The Hunger Games, it simply isn’t good enough. Meanwhile, John Crowley’s Brooklyn is a surprising, beautiful, and heartfelt film that is so well-executed that the simplicity of its story is never an issue.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Just over a year ago, I posted a review of Mockingjay Part 1. In that review, I was willing to forgive a number of the film’s shortcomings on the basis that it was but half of a 2-part finale. However, now that I’ve seen the final installment, I’m forced to acknowledge that much that was not great in Mockingjay Part 1 was but a sign of things to come in Part 2. The film isn’t awful, but it isn’t what it could have been either. The entire series peaked with Catching Fire, and everything since then has been too sluggish, too stilted, and too hollow to amount to much more than middling and short-lived entertainment.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off, and (with the exception of an awful epilogue that I address later) it maintains a somber and largely cynical tone throughout. Francis Lawrence also presents viewers with some intriguing political commentary, but this aspect of the film doesn’t build much on the groundwork laid by the previous 3.
The best thing about the Mockingjay Part 2 is Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. As in the other films in the series, she is fully committed to the role, and her portrayal of Katniss carries the film. With her particular combination of strength and vulnerability, Lawrence is certainly the most powerful on-screen presence in Mockingjay Part 2. Viewers who don’t care or Katniss, won’t care for The Hunger Games; conversely, those who find her compelling will have a much easier time enjoying the series even when it stumbles.
After Lawrence, the most important performance in the film comes from Hutcherson, but the material he is given does not allow him to make the most of the role. While there are a number of other talented actors in the film, none of the supporting cast members manage to make much of an impact, because they are not given an opportunity to do so. Figures like Snow, Effie, Plutarch, and Haymitch are hardly on screen at all in this film, and some of them may as well have been edited out entirely.
As often seems to happen with adaptations of novels, certain narrative threads in Mockingjay Part 2 feel underdeveloped or out-of-place. The love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale continues to come across as forced and shallow, and it weakens what is otherwise a noticeably mature YA series. Additionally, even though he has a lot of screen time, Peeta’s storyline is never fleshed out enough, and it doesn’t add nearly as much to the film as it could have.
One of the largest problems with Mockingjay Part 2 is its overall lack of impact. I, a known softie, may have teared up just a tad once or twice, but a good portion of the film rings hollow. Despite its incredibly heavy subject matter, the film lacks the emotional weight that one would expect, and none of the deaths are presented in a way that allows viewers to really feel their tragedy fully. It’s also worth noting that those moments that do manage to be impactful only seem to do so, because Jennifer Lawrence transcends the material.
The beginning of the film is a little rushed, but much of the middle section works quite well. It’s this portion of the film that contains the most action and is by far the most intense. Unfortunately, the film stumbles quite a bit after its climax. If the film’s ending had been better, I may have been able to overlook some of its other problems. As it stands, the conclusion to Mockingjay Part 2 is so disappointing, that it almost seems to magnify the film’s flaws.
In fact, the biggest problem with Mockingjay Part 2 lies in its ending. The final sections of the film drag on, and the series ends up going out with an awkward murmur instead of a bang. One issue with the ending is that is feels too much like the end of a trilogy of YA novels, which is to say that it spends too much time tying up loose ends and not nearly enough giving viewers something to sink their teeth into. To make matters worse, Mockingjay Part 2 is also weighed down by a needless and undoubtedly cringe-worthy epilogue that is horribly inconsistent with the atmosphere and the characterization in the rest of the series. I’ll keep this review spoiler free, but the final scene essentially ignores and undercuts so much of the rest of The Hunger Games that I am entirely baffled as to why it was allowed to stay in the film.
Order Mockingjay Part 2.
Directed by John Crowley
Based on the 2009 novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn is a sweet and remarkably earnest film that does exactly what it sets out to do. At first glance, John Crowley’s recent romantic drama is not the sort of film that would typically catch my eye, but I’m certainly glad that I choose to see it, for this tender film is much more captivating and impactful than its straightforward premise might suggest.
Brooklyn is a film touched by melancholy and sorrow, but it is filled with hope, humor, and wonder as well. It tells a story about love, homesickness, loss, and growing up, and it does so with heart and with nuance alike. As simple as this story about a woman torn between two places may appear, and as delicate as Crowley’s presentation of that story is, the film is also incredibly powerful. I shed many (and many kinds of) tears while watching the film, and its emotional force is so great that it is sure to resonate with viewers for much longer than its 2-hr run time.
Saoirse Ronan truly shines in this film. As Eilis, she is a ray of light. She is positively lovely, and she carries both the narrative and emotional weight of the film on her shoulders with remarkable grace. Ronan brings energy, life, and emotion to every scene that she is in, and she is exactly the heroine that Brooklyn’s story and mood both call for.
Ronan gives the strongest performance in the film, but much of the supporting cast do good work as well. This is particularly true for Emory Cohen, who is wonderfully charming as Eilis’s Brooklyn boyfriend, Tony.
Brooklyn is set in the 1950s, which lends a faint air of nostalgia to the whole thing. It’s also worth noting the way that the film’s place in the past is conveyed and by its appealing and colorful visuals. The costume design here is also top-notch, and the film is beautifully—and wistfully—shot.
Brooklyn’s narrative may not be terribly complex, but it is moving, and it manages to tug rather forcefully at the heart strings without ever being too much. With its touching story of young love and with its interest in homesickness, Brooklyn could have easily become cloying or over-the-top; instead, the film is a shining example of balance and of pleasing simplicity done right. The film is well-executed in just about every way, and it demonstrates a great deal of heart without ever sacrificing its good sense.
Brooklyn is not edgy or ground-breaking, but it is something special all the same. This inspiring and affecting film won’t be the best that viewers see this year, but it is certainly worth seeing. The film provides a complete and well-rounded emotional experience, and it proves that clear-cut, uncomplicated storytelling can be effective and memorable when executed correctly.
Until Next Time
Thanks so much for reading! It’s that time of year when a lot of great movies seem to come out very quickly, so I expect to be posting quite a bit for the next month or 2
(or at least, I will if I can scrape together the funds for movie tickets lol).