Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Gatsby

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



LPC said...

All my Cool Young Internet Friends have HATED this movie. If you like it I am sure they are all quite, quite misguided.

Anonymous said...

You and Toad are aligned on this flick, he said to enter the theatre having left belief/memory/text at the door. What I'm waiting for is the version I'd produce, ie writ xs. This one's writ xxl, so I'm forced to wait for the next version. Meanwhile Max, please come to my casting call for the Nick character, I think there's still unexplored textual range there for a genius like you to work with.


Anonymous said...

Go in with no preconceived notions and will love movie. You are right about rap content... It works.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind the Hip Hop aspect, though I suddenly wonder whether or not people like the Buchanans had Black servants in those days- I would suspect much more likely Irish. I didn't think we needed the "superior race" comment- Tom was jerk enough without being a racist, too... And did you notice how everybody got a southern accent some of the time? Jordan was not a southerner before and Tom, and Gatsby? Who next, Myrtle?

I love the way the clothes reflect 2012 as much as they do 1925, sort of like Ralph's looked a lot like 1875 in the Redford version. Kudos to whichever of the Brethren got the product placement deal this go around...

And you are right about how many times he needed to say Old Sport.

Hoyt "Seedless" Carraway

Alie said...

Oh no again with the artificial outdoors :-( I have yet to see but imagine I will be in agreement with every part of your review. But what a shame - that as with his Australia, the outdoors is cgi. They filmed for months in the spectacular Australian outback for that movie. And then the sunsets were cgi. Such a shame when his movies are so spectacular in every other sense.

Anonymous said...

Hoyt anon, I don't understand what you meant about not "needing" the superior race comments from Tom. Maybe you should take that up with FSF and Maxwell Perkins, not the screenwriter. Read Chapter One of Gatsby

Anonymous said...

My son's headmaster took the 11th grade lit classes to "The Great Gatsby" on opening day (after they had read the book as assignment).
Teens are harsh critics - but I heard high ratings all around - contrary to musings that the book may be too subtle and tender for the movies.
Did you see it in 3D?

Reggie Darling said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this movie...someday. More for the production values than the storyline. Or the actors. I find LdeC less than underwhelming in most roles. I am with you, computer simuation isn't the same as the real thing, gives it all a hard, shiny look. However, I enjoy Mr. Lurman's output, and so I look forward to "partying with Gatsby." Reggie

ADG said...

LPC...Prunella…I wonder if the unanimous hating is due to an element of groupthink. Or are their arguments well thought out. I have no critic cred so surely their opposition to the movie could be as strongly defended as my preference for it. Also, I wrote what I did about the movie before reading any of the reviews. Yesterday I read a review in a British publication and I disagreed, point by point with the reviewer.

Anonymous Toad AlignmentFlo...If I could play anyone in the movie, it would be Nick.

Anonymous Rap Content...Yep. Like I said, it was JUST enough. One more smidge and it woulda been too Cotton Clubish. Bam.

AnonHipHopAspect...I never thought about it but yep, perhaps there was a greater chance that the help on Long Island in the twenties mighta been Irish. Or as Ernest T. Bass called ‘em…”Irishters.” Buchannan was racist in the book so it’s not surprising that he was so in the movie. Agree re Brooks getting the clothing deal. Alas, very little of that jaunt manifests in their retail joint.

Alie...Agree. And it’s a nit-picky issue so on balance; I reckon it’s something that must be lived with forever due to the costs of live versus digital shoe-horning of scenery etc.

AnonymousChapterOne...Agree. See my previous comment.

Anonymous11thGradeMama…I never thought of the “too subtle and tender” waft of the book re teenagers reading it and getting bored with it. But the movie surely gave them a more energetic take on it.

Reggie Darling...Reginald my friend. We are long overdue for a cocktail. And yes, if you, a more erudite and qualified critic of literature, attend the movie for the prevailing reason of appreciating the production strategy, I bet you won’t be disappointed. I also believe that the storyline has not been violated too much. Perhaps slung around gently by the hooters a bit but not soiled beyond repair.

JKG said...

I liked it, for what it was. But I differ from some of the folks upstream in this: I think that if you hadn't read the book, the movie wouldn't be too interesting. I brought a lot of the tension and passion the characters experience with me into the theater, and I don't think the screenplay would have made up the difference if I hadn't.

My take was that the better title for the film would have been "Pictures From the Novel 'The Great Gatsby,' As Imagined by Baz Lurhmann." In my case (I saw it in 3d), that would be "Brought to You by ViewMaster ViewFinder."

ADG said...

JKG...good points. And it never dawned on me that people hadn't read the book. Silly me. And I didn't see it in 3-D.

Spalding said...

Jordan and Daisy spent their "white girlhood" together in Louisville, so the southern accent is more than appropriate. And Tom is a racist and worse of all a false intellectual, with his "scientific' racism.

Anonymous said...

"Jordan and Daisy...Louisville...southern accent is more than appropriate."

Not so fast. Louisville is a tough call, it being in spitting distance of Indiana, that is. Surely FSF knew what he was doing placing Daisy's birthplace in Louisville, ie not South, not North, not Midwest and not West. So what's a reader to infer from FSF's implied absence of regional 'place'?


spalding said...

Another mans blog is not the place for debate but if ADG will forgive me Daisy is Zelda, Fitzgerald is stationed as a young Lt. In Alabama, falls head over heels for the socialite daughter of an Alabama supream court justice.
He saw Zelda and her accent as his golden girl..

Anonymous said...

It is also known that FSF was not strong in grammar or geography.