Hello again, everyone! I’m just going to direct you to Lucid’s last post (or any of the ones we’ve posted sporadically over the last two years or so) in lieu of making my excuses (which have not changed). Instead, I’m going to get right to the point and fill you in on the good stuff.
Last you heard from me, I was bemoaning my lack of Life Skills. I am less-than-happy to assure you that there has been no significant change in that department. In spite of this, however, I have managed to trick my professors into believing that I am degree-worthy, as have Lucid and Fuzzy. Meaning we are now (somehow!) bona fide graduates.*
And what’s more, we are venturing perilously close to Adult Territory. Lucid is now Employed (!!). Fuzzy is heading off to graduate school. And I… I am possibly going to graduate school, also. OR I am going to be an unemployed, overgrown child for the rest of my life. One of the two.**
Now that I’ve brought you up to speed, I am totally going to do the annoying BWC thing and turn the rest of this post into a review. To be fair, it was the reviewing that I missed enough to want to get back to blogging, so here it comes. A while ago, Lucid and I watched Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I lovelovelove the novel version and I cannot imagine a film equivalent to Fitzgerald’s words. That aside, I still didn’t find a whole lot to recommend in this adaptation.
I think the central trouble I had was with the Gatsby character. I never, for one moment, bought into the legend. You could argue that he isn’t, in fact, meant to be a legend, but rather a man playing at being one. He is, however, meant to play the part well enough that those unacquainted with the truth fall for the facade. The oft-repeated “old sport” line, I felt, was grating throughout. It seemed like not even Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway (unquestioning Gatsby fanboy) bought into the tale. I wouldn’t fault DiCaprio (another solid performance) for this odd choice so much as Luhrmann. Secondly, while I cannot quite call it lazy film-making ( the detail on those sets!), more effort seems to have been expended on fancy (and pretty amazing, really ) visual styling than on story-telling. Ironic, since Fitzgerald’s story explicitly cautions against glittery exteriors. Nor can the argument be made, that this sense of superficiality is what the movie seeks to capture, considering that the eye-candy after all, seems to have been the movie’s most worked-upon aspect. It ultimately detracts from the story, with the end result being that the movie lacks that sense of unease, dissatisfaction and judgement that permeates the novel. It also reduces every valuable insight to be earned and discerned by the viewer to simplistic voice-over exposition. Dr. T J Eckleburg’s eyes, watching wordlessly from a hoarding, a stand-in for an all-seeing god, for instance, is delivered matter-of-fact not early in the movie (and then repeated to death just in case you overlooked its cleverness). Finally, the soundtrack. Although quite fantastic taken on its own, the contemporary music was jarring against the 1920’s setting, demanding greater suspension of disbelief than I could manage. I’m not certain if this was Luhrmann’s way of decrying the current state of affairs and reaffirming the story’s pertinence today. Unfortunately, for me, it sort of mixed both eras in the most unsatisfactory way possible.
Where the movie scores, in my opinion, is in that it does not romanticize the Gatsby character. By setting up Nick as being unclear in his mind, he is established as an unreliable narrator, early in the movie. This, along with several other cinematic choices, allow us to see the self-deluding Mr.Gatsby for the flawed character he is. Even as we watch Nick fall for Gatsby’s perceived modesty, it becomes increasingly apparent to the viewer that in the orchestration of his reunion with Daisy and all that follows, he is merely terribly controlling of his image and quite used to getting his way by less-than-noble means. Alongside Nick’s proclamations of Gatsby’s incorruptible Greatness and steadfastness, we are witness to a much different truth: that Daisy is but a selfish obsession– yet another fixture to be acquired in order to enhance Gatsbyland. Daisy herself is portrayed complexly by the always-wonderful ( I will profess myself a fan) Carey Mulligan. We are able to see how the impressionable Daisy is also complicit in the lie that becomes her own undoing. I think her character here best encapsulates Fitzgerald’s fears for what would come to pass through such irresponsible, decadent living. Overall, the cast is pretty fantastic, with good performances all around.
In closing, I think Luhrmann’s take certainly does add something to the Gatsbyverse and also sets the stage for future retellings . I just wish the story had taken precedence over the distracting fluff.
* We haven’t done that whole robes-and-tasseled-hats thing yet. But that is because college is ridiculous as ever and the official ceremony is scheduled for next year. I am leaving this can of worms unopened, on the topmost shelf, well out of my reach because, really, who wants to hear any more on that?
** Update: I may be an overgrown child, but gosh-darn it, I’m an overgrown child with an admission to grad school. Yeah!