I’ve read a post where someone was complaining about how Jena Malone basically ruined the character because she represented only a monodimentional Johanna who’s only angry and aggressive, that you don’t see Johanna, but see Jena acting as Johanna because she’s always in the same type of roles.
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but I beg to differ on this one.
Jena Malone is a very talented actress and she did play a few sassy, tough girls in her life (see Sucker Punch, The Go Getter, Hatfields and McCoys), but she’s also - and quite admirably - played strong, brave girls who were alone against the world (Saved!, Five Star Day), silly, superficial girls (Pride and Prejudice), girls with major issues to deal with but an irony determination to keep their life and family together (Dakota), sweet, scared, helpless girls with a beautiful willpower in their own fragility (The Ruins), girls who were admired for their looks but great wits and intelligence, and also a particular human sensitivity (Donnie Darko)…
And there’s more. Should I go on?
When she was cast as Johanna, I was a bit taken aback, too, because of course she’s not exactly the 100% perfect physical match for Johanna, but sometimes talent can compensate a difference in looks.
This is the case.
As it was Jennifer’s case as Katniss, or Emma Watson’s case as Hermione. We fall in love with characters for how they behave, how they think and act and react, and Jena Malone became Johanna Mason, mind, body and soul, and if you’re not too busy complaining about how thin and white and green-eyed she is, maybe you could see it, too. Even Jen was too white and pretty to be Katniss, but she left everyone stunned with her performance, so, yes, not a perfect match in appearance, but who cares when we got that?
Let’s leave looks alone.
Jena played a monodimensional Johanna who was only angry and sassy.
This whole scene was directed quite differently from the book. In the book it was meant to be more absent-minded and causal, in the movie they added an intentional mischief to it. Why? Because there’s a bunch of scenes in the book where Johanna shows her dark, ironic sense of humour, but obviously the movie needs to cut a lot of important book parts that help the reader picture the character, so they chose to have the elevator scene (thank goodness, I might add) with a healthy sprinkle of pure Johanna’s cheeky spice. Turned out great, imho. She keeps a straight face as she strips, but then, as she notices her little show has elicited some funny reactions, she gets all defiant and teasy, but never letting go of her utter nonchalance.
But Jena is not a PoC, so it takes away all the meaning to it, I guess.
Oh, look, here it is: the angry, sassy Johanna. Monodimentional as you may see her, you have to concede that, in representing this one single dimention of such a multifaceted character, Jena did quite well.
This is Johanna’s ultimate declaration of war, basically. But it’s not just because of what she says. Look at her face: there’s contempt, sheer disgust mixed with hatred and sadness. This is what I would expect from a girl who was robbed of her childhood and her whole life and who’s still standing.
Johanna doesn’t have anything to live for: her family is dead, her beloved ones are dead, she’s been used by the Capitol as a doll for years, and yet she didn’t kill herself. Why? Vengeance. And there it is. All there. In 3 mere seconds of acting.
What do we have here? Quiet, thoughtful, resigned Johanna. Waiting to be called for her personal session and with no more anger left, but only silent spite boiling underneath. She’s acting like she’s in line for a museum ticket, not like a girl with a “wicked ability to kill” who’s ready to go in there and beat the shit out of those fucking stupid gamemakers. She knows she might not come out alive, once again, and she doesn’t give a fuck. Because there’s nothing left to lose, this time.
Let’s talk about this. I have a feeling that with this scene they wanted to give away a little something from Johanna’s very soul. Too bad Jena can only portray the angry side of Johanna, otherwise we would have got a beautiful, heart-breaking peek into her true feelings and most human side. There’s a melancholy in the way she tells Katniss about Annie, something that made me wonder if it was meant to make it look like Johanna may have or have had feelings for Finnick, or was maybe just recalling a person (a boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever, perhaps) she once loved and has now lost.
That one sentence, though, speaks volumes, and not just as to the words she uses. The weak, wistful voice, the touch of sadness in her eyes…
This scene is like a crack in the wall: you get to see through the steel and the concrete and the thorns surrounding Johanna, and what you find is a broken little girl who’s desperately trying to grow numb because of all the pain she’s had to bear, but simply can’t.
This is all that’s left of Johanna as a human being: fighting. Her will to stand through the sorrow and the bitterness because someone has to pay for what she’s been suffering. For what hundreds and hunderds of kids and famillies had to suffer. So she does all she can, she gives all herself for the only cause she could ever relate to: war against Panem. We all know Johanna doesn’t like Katniss, yet she still does her best to protect her, so that Katniss can survive and go out there and lead this war. Here comes the Johanna people remember as a Victor, not as a Tribute: she plants her axe in Cashmere’s head without a second thought. She’s known the woman for years, and yet you can see the cold determination on her face when she pushes Katniss aside to protect her.
Also, when the Cornucopia spins, we can see Katniss’ scared and worried face, but Johanna, who’s trying to save her, doesn’t look scared or worried herself: she looks aching by the exertion of holding up Katniss, but she doesn’t give in because there’s this furious fire burning within her, this hunger for revenge and justice, and she holds on to it, not to fear.
We would have certainly seen it all, if only unworthy Jena Malone hadn’t given us such a flat, mediocre portrayal of Johanna Mason, right?
In conclusion, I’m all okay if you pictured Johanna in a different way than Jena Malone looks, because I did, too. But, please, think twice and make sure what you say actually makes sense before stating that an actor is awful only because they don’t look exactly like the character they’re playing.
This, said, I think I’m done.
By the way, thanks johanakatniss for the gifs.