July 3, 2013

The Great Gatsby

My favorite novel, a book I read once a year, adapted by a visionary director. Is this a bad idea or a terrific idea? While I am not a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann's movies- I enjoyed Moulin Rouge and Australia quite a bit - I have a lot of respect for him. Gatsby has been adapted so many times, there's no pressure to make a definitive movie adaptation. Which is good, because Luhrmann's Gatsby is an oversized, impressionist epic.
If it were 10 minutes shorter, I'd give it an A. My Stub Hubby Grade: B-plus.
Weird seeing DiCaprio with no moustache or goatee.
The Cast is uniformly great. DiCaprio does not get enough credit for being the only actor of his generation to avoid action and adventure movies. Carey Mulligan is a pathetic and doomed Daisy Buchanan. I always picture Tom Buchanan as a bigger, beefier jock, but Joel Edgerton embodies the man as a vessel of pure confidence. Tobey Maguire was born to play Peter Parker, and Nick Carroway. He's not a very convincing alcoholic in the narrator's framing device, but he's ideal as the non-threatening passive observer.
Music: The score and songs were all great. I didn't mind the modern music in the movie at all. The whole film is so fantastical, that a strictly contemporaneous score would have been distracting.
Production design: What I find most distracting is the sheer scale of Gatsby's mansion, and the massive underground speakeasy where Jay and Nick have lunch with Meyer Wolfsheim - both locations bear zero resemblance to actual places that real people have been. There's never been a mansion the size of Gatsby's on Long Island. The biggest mansions of Newport would fit nicely in his grand hall. And there's never been a subterranean speakeasy that holds hundreds of people with 20-foot ceilings. It's just preposterous. All these points make me want to re-read the book for these details.
Other Differences: In my mind's eye, Nick's cottage is on the other side of the Gatsby mansion. If you're looking at the water from Nick's cottage, I always pictured Gatsby's house on the left. In both this movie, and the 1974 Redford Gatsby, Nick's cottage is on the other side. This is more distracting than you might think.
In the book, Nick goes with Tom to his apartment party with Myrtle, then, in the morning, Nick goes to the near-empty Grand Central Terminal to catch a train home. In the movie, Nick wakes up on his front porch "I don't remember how I got home" he narrates. Very odd change.
Three-D: I didn't see Gatsby in 3-D, I saw it in 2-D, but it's sad the influence of 3-D has not changed from the original red-and-blue lens fad of the 50s and 60s. The camera flies at warp speed through this movie, diving between skyscrapers, swooping through the girders of the Queensboro bridge, surfing across the bay between East Egg and West Egg. It's embarassing. I would not be surprised if, years after this 3D fad dies out, this Gatsby is re-edited to remove all this stunt cinematography.

Also By Baz Luhrmann

Australia and Moulin Rouge!

Theater Notes

Can I pull of four movies in five days? While my wife and son are visiting family in NJ, I am going to try! Gatsby is movie #2 on my list. I saw Gatsby on the last night of its run at West Newton Cinema. The people who go to the movies in West Newton are truly the worst. I want to shame them for their thoughtless behavior, but they're already shameless. Kinda hard to enjoy a movie when I'm composing my big speech which will perfectly illuminate their boorishness. RANT OVER
Two days later, I've calmed down and reviewed my blog: I have seen nineteen movies at the West Newton Cinema, and I've only had terrible audiences...four times? So it's about 21% terrible, 79% neutral.

Also At West Newton