mockingjayThe Louisville premiere of “Mockingjay – Part 1” on Wednesday night was a $125-a-ticket fundraiser to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana, an out-of-school program that offers a safe haven for youth. The event was hosted by the Lawrence Foundation, a fund of the Community Foundation of Louisville.

Meredith Lawrence, sister-in-law of star Jennifer Lawrence, was one of the hosts for the evening. Insider asked her which of the three “Hunger Games” movies she liked best, and she said “They just keep getting better. That’s going to make it really hard for the next one.”

Much of the Lawrence family was on the West Coast last week for the Los Angeles premier of the movie on Friday. Then Jennifer flew to New York to appear in a brief segment on “Saturday Night Live” (that jumpsuit! swoon!). Woody Harrelson, who plays Haymitch in the films, hosted the show, and Lawrence and several other cast members joined him for a song during the monologue. During the bit, Harrelson asks Jennifer to help him sing, and she and fellow cast members joke about what a bad voice she has. We asked Meredith to confirm that. “I think she sounds fine,” said Meredith. “But I don’t really know. It’s not like she sits around and sings for me.”

An hour or so later, in the middle of the movie, Jennifer’s Katniss breaks into song, and her voice is lovely — cinema magic, or Lawrence’s usual self-deprecation?

The Film…

“Mockingjay – Part 1” is the movie that “Hunger Games” fans want it to be. But even the staunchest “Hunger Games” fan may be unprepared by how relentlessly dark and bleak the movie feels. The setting — almost entirely in the fabled District 13’s underground bunker — is claustrophobic and the colors are drab (even effin’ Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks, has been robbed of her wigs, makeup and costumes).

This is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie. She is front and center in nearly every scene, oftentimes alone. And she is perfection. Her performance in “Mockingjay” is more Oscar-worthy than her performance in “American Hustle,” but she’ll likely get no Oscar love this year because the Academy almost always overlooks fantasy/sci-fi.

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President Snow and Peeta — they won the costume contest

Lawrence’s Katniss has Gale (Liam Hemsworth) by her side, she’s surrounded by family and friends but she’s essentially alone.

(By the way, Hemsworth’s dopey, moony Gale has probably by now turned every #TeamGale fan into a #TeamPeeta. He’s truly the weakest link in a stellar cast.)

Katniss is alone because she has surrendered her identity to the rebels. She’s no longer Katiniss — she’s the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the strength of dissidents, the face of the propaganda, or “propa,” as Plutarch (sigh… Phillip Seymour Hoffman) calls it, meant to rally the troops. President of the dissidents, Alma Coin, played by the steely haired Julianne Moore, looking older than you’ve ever seen her, is stern and authoritarian, but her humanity is slowly revealed.

This is definitely a PG-13 movie, unusual for one based on a YA book. There’s torture and serious violence. The film, directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Danny Strong and Peter Craig, is relentless in its despair.

It was hard to imagine how they could chop Suzanne Collins’s novel in half to make it two movies without losing momentum. No spoilers, but let’s just say the movie ends with a punch to the gut that’s so hard, you really do need time to recover.

The club…

Before the movie, we were introduced to the 12 children in the audience from the Boys and Girls Club. I was lucky enough to be seated next to one of them, a young man from Shawnee, who jabbered and joked with me throughout the movie and kept offering me his popcorn. He was awesome. He’d read all the books and seen all the movies. When a pre-taped greeting from Jennifer Lawrence played before the movie, he asked me, “Is that really Katniss? She’s beautiful!”

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Kolby Atkinson

We also were introduced to 16-year-old Kolby Atkinson, the Boys and Girls Club of Kentucky’s Youth of the Year. Atkinson is a junior at Central High School Magnet Career Academy who recently bumped his GPA up from a 3.8 to a 4.0. He said that he came to the club for the basketball, but stayed for the leadership opportunities. In the past two years, he’s put in more than 1,000 hours of community service and has earned $61,000 in scholarships. He credits the club for pushing him to join AP classes in school and joining the Keystone Club, where he now serves as president.

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