Jennifer Lawrence did her best to keep expectations low when it came to her singing performance in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1. The self-effacing star downplayed her crooning at various points along the promotional trail. She talked about how mortified she was to film the scene, where Katniss warbles one of her late father’s ballads, “The Hanging Tree.” She told David Letterman that when she sang she sounded like “a tone-deaf Amy Winehouse” (before engaging in an intentionally horrendous Christmas carol duet with the late-night host). A few days later, on Saturday Night Live, she and co-stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson “surprised” host Woody Harrelson where the four performed a ditty together — but not before some ribbing about Lawrence’s pipes. “I don’t think anyone wants to hear me sing… When I sing, I sound like a deer caught that’s been in a fence,” she said, to which Hemsworth piled on: “I would say it’s more like a dog that’s been hit by a truck.”
That was all for laughs, sure, but here’s the thing: Her acoustic performance of “The Hanging Tree” in Mockingjay is nothing to mock. It’s an impressive, riveting performance, and it makes for one of the film’s most potent moments.
The audio from the scene made its way online Friday, and you can hear it here:
It’s not just this guy (who maybe you saw gushing about it during Monday’s livestream of the movie’s L.A. red carpet premiere) who thinks so.
Noted critic Richard Roeper said the song gave him chills. The Wall Street Journal lablels it a “lovely and lyrical interlude,” with critic Joe Morgenstern adding that the performance reminded him “of the purity and simplicity of Ms. Lawrence’s first starring role as Ree Dolly, the indomitable young heroine of Winters Bone.” The London Evening Standard calls the moment “a standout scene” in a glowing review of the film. “It’s one of the most stirring moments in Mockingjay,” writes Hypable’s Andrew Sims. Even the music ‘zine Spin calls Lawrence “a very talented singer.”
Don’t even get Hunger Games fans on Twitter started about how much they love Lawrence’s haunting rendition of “Hanging Tree” (but if you would like to, just search “Hanging Tree” on Twitter). Let’s just say the song is getting stuck in many a head this weekend… and has also been nominated to be our new national anthem.
Of course not everyone is in agreement: A snarkster at Dlisted wrote of her performance, “It sounds like a NyQuil stoned Jennifer Lawrence doing a karaoke version of ‘The Hanging Tree’ at a mopey hipster bar,” among various other colorful insults. Even a blogger from the Hunger Games fansite Jabberjays.net writes, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, how Jennifer Lawrence thinks she can’t sing is beyond me!” (If you’ve been paying attention, though, apparently Jennifer Lawrence does not think she can sing.) Then there’s Nerdist, whose critique falls squarely in the middle: “Jennifer Lawrence can now add ‘competent singer’ to her unending list of impressive attributes and accomplishments,” writes Alicia Lutes.
How do you think Jen fared in her big musical number? Let us know in the comments below.