WARNING: The following article discusses The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and contains mild spoilers.
With the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, the gap between the worlds of Suzanne Collins' novels and the movies they've inspired widens considerably. And believe it or not that's a good thing, especially as it concerns a fan favorite of the franchise, Effie Trinket. Though the Capitol-based PR maven/District 12 talent handler was barely in the third book in Collin's trilogy, the franchise's filmmakers wisely lace her throughout the first half of the novel's adaptation. With her uncrushable passion for fashion and expert side-eye, Effie brings some desperately needed levity to this sequel, making her the movie's unexpected MVP.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 begins with Katniss suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Peeta the prisoner of President Snow, and Finnick transformed from confident to cowering. Embedded in the subterranean bunkers of an embattled District 13, there is a discernable dearth of color and gaga glamour. Basically, this movie is pretty damn bleak, but just when it hits a point where it begins to crush us, Plutarch Heavensbee literally opens the door to Effie, a welcomed breath of fresh air.
As you've likely seen from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 character poster, Effie--stripped of much of her finery--is a refugee in District 13. This place where everything from the walls to floors to worker's uniforms is gray, gray, gray, is a total torment to the fashionista, who's gone into hiding with the last scraps of her Capitol flare, glittery, ruffled and pink. I've seen the film twice now, and both times was delighted to hear the audience literally inhale when Effie was introduced.
In the film, she serves the purpose that Cinna's prep team did in the book, coaching Katniss through her rise to Mockingjay. Plot-wise, it's a bit thin. We don't really need Effie here for that, what with Haymitch and Plutarch and Gale and Coin and so on. But Elizabeth Banks' take on Effie is what makes her invaluable in these scenarios. She's without her makeup and wigs ("I miss my wigs!") but not her sass. Whether backing up Heavensbee's pleas for Coin to pump up the panache of her political speeches ("Oxygen!"), sharing flirtatious Sam-and-Diane-styled barbs with Haymitch ("I like you better sober") or inspiring Katniss for a propaganda ad shoot ("Everyone is either going to want to kill you, kiss you, or be you!"), she does it with that bombastic attitude and enviable confidence that has made her beloved despite being a Capitol cog.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is a great movie, and the best the franchise has given us yet. But with so much turmoil, death, and destruction, it could have been a real (depressing) slog. Lawrence is once more magic as Katniss. But she's denied the chance to grin and play with Caesar Flickerman, or frolic with Peeta. And when being confronted by so much grimness, it's good and helpful to be remembered of the joys and luxury of triviality.
Effie's longing for her stylish ensembles may seem petty, but it's also a feeling the audience connects to. Even as we are enveloped in Katniss's latest, world-changing adventure, who could blame us for missing the Girl on Fire's distinctive dresses? In some sense, Effie is our stand-in. In others, she is our only access to the wearable art the first two films dazzled us with. Coupled with her drag queen-like wit, she is just what The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1--like President Coin--need to really capture the hearts of its audience: Oxygen.