Before seeing this latest and much touted version of one of my favorite novels, I was prepared, almost looking forward to being underwhelmed. I’ve shared my dichotomy…my contradiction before. Clients pay me a pretty fair wage to challenge their views and ideas…to deliberately, through agreed upon processes, pry them out of their comfort zones and test what they believe to be their immutable beliefs. Yet in my personal life I often fight change tooth and nail when my current beliefs are comfortable. And my first reaction to a Gatsby remake was “Why? Why would we need another? What else could be interpreted or reinterpreted or conveyed in a worthwhile way?”
Was there something about the green light or the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelberg that we’d overlooked to date? What was there gonna be for those of us who love the novel and still believe that Mia Farrow’s frailty conveyed the perfect Daisy ennui and treacle spritzed moneyed impertinence of the time? I’m not a literary or film critic and I’m not an intellectual. I just know what I like. And I loved this latest interpretation of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. I loved it.
I liked Redford and Farrow’s Gatsby and Daisy. But DiCaprio and Mulligan played the parts more viscerally and that alone would have me liking this Gatsby better than the last one. Their guarded wounds ultimately lost some of the restraint that Redford and Farrow never surrendered. And Nick Carraway’s conflicts and Tom Buchannan’s misogyny and cowardice are clearer. But there’s another twist that’s even more impressive and to me, dangerously tricky…
…it’s the Jay-Z—Baz Luhrmann collaboration. What the hell is Jay-Z doing messing with this thing? Let me just tell you that their collaboration is the dash of bitters and the swizzle stick that makes this Gatsby cocktail perfect. It’s as if Mr. Z. et al pushed it right up to the line of being overly kitschy and Moulin Rouge-ish and then backed off a couple of f-stops. Too much of it and all that is sublime about The Great Gatsby would have been over-egged and tarted up. Who cares, other than the man himself, if the Jay-Z Gatsby soundtrack is a commercial flop? I swear…if another ounce of hip-hop ethnic urbanity had been added, it woulda been toxic. But they hit it. Just right. And it isn’t just visual and auditory window dressing. It’s the perfect siren come-on for hedonistic recklessness. Shut up.
So what didn’t I like about it? I waited and watched all of the credits to see where they’d filmed the movie. Much of the Redford-Farrow version was filmed in Newport, Rhode Island and I’m always interested in the properties and houses used to stage these movies. I’ve absolutely no issue with the fact that much of this move was filmed in Australia. What I regret is that technology allows for so many of the scenes to be shrouded in digital imagery versus authentic shots of things like bodies of water at sunset. I know it’s less expensive and I realize that technology is stunningly efficient in these matters. But I don’t give a damn. It looks digital and I don’t like it. And finally, a few less “Old Sports” from Gatsby woulda been fine. I realize the book is peppered with the phrase but there’s more tedium in hearing versus reading it.
Oh, and one more thing. We live in a louche world so I’m not surprised that the Gatsby merchandising this time around is louche as well. Party at Gatsby’s t-shirts? Party as a verb should carry a ten-year mandatory with no parole. But even party as a noun in this instance is just sad. The Gatsby party attendees were pawns and poseurs to no less degree than Gatsby himself. Five gets ten that most of the rubes who buy the shirt haven’t read the book. Kinda reeks a bit of the Che image craze.
I wonder if seeing Gatsby through Aussie eyes had anything to do with how this interpretation turned out.
Onward Old Sport