Intro

Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gatsby...is okay.


I didn't see The Great Gatsby in the movie houses.  I waited for the DVD which came out last week.  I will point out that my wife did go see it, and she told me that on the big screen it was visually stunning.  I will also point out that I've never made it through any version of the Fitzgerald novel adapted for the screen.  I know the 1974 version with Robert Redford was highly praised.  I walked out on it.  I found it incredibly boring. Thinking it was because I was probably too young for the movie I've tried to watch it several times.  I was not too young.  It is boring.  So I approached the new Gatsby with some trepidation.

The novel, which is in no way a favorite either, is a complex story so adapting it to the screen in some sort of straight plotline movie also a hard task.  For Baz "Romeo and Juliet/Moulin Rouge" Luhrmann to bring his over-the-top style to the movie made it at least interesting to look at.  I have to admit though by the end of the first party, I'd grown a bit weary of how many Art Deco grand spectacles was included.  Clearly the staging was done with 3D in mind.  At least, I wasn't bored.

His attempt to include the ever dominant eyes of Dr. T.J Eckleberg was both visually impressive and thematically a failure.  The eyes are not as the movie seems to indicate the "eyes of God" but are supposed to be the loss of spiritual values in favor of the American Dream becoming more about making money than becoming simply better.   So it becomes a bit oversimplified but I admit, it is a difficult symbol that every adaptation has struggled with.  The eyes over the valley of ashes push the idea that the Dream has become a lie.

The movie does better with the "green light" at the end of Daisy's dock which Gatsby watches from his house and reaches for.  The green light in both movie an book becomes Gatsby's dream, but it is far, unobtainable, in the distance.  While the movie puts forth the idea that when Gatsby and Daisy cannot see the light, he has lost something among many things he sees as magic, it tends to downplay the idea that Gatsby has but one dream and that he has done all for Daisy, and like the green light, she is an unobtainable dream.

The final words of the film are straight from the novel, but it felt as if something were missing to me.  It dawned on me that the last part of the film had simplified the end of what was a complex ending in the novel. The other element that I found getting in the way were the transferring the words written by the narrator, Nick Carraway, played by Toby Maguire. I also do not understand why we need to have Nick telling the story to anyone but the audience.  The entire sanitarium sequence is useless and an unnecessary device so we can have words floating all over the screen.  While I am at it, Gatsby does not need to start or end every sentence with the words "old sport." The entire point is that Gatsby is good at looking like new rich and fitting in.  The constant addition of "old sport" makes it appear that he isn't.

The older he gets and the more experienced, Leonardo DiCaprio becomes a stronger and cleaner actor.  He does capture the mystery of Jay Gatsby better than those who have played the role before him.  Maguire as the chronicler of the events also turns in his usual solid slightly overacted performance.  The antagonist of Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton, was  a bit too evil rich.  One has to wonder that if Carraway (Maguire) and Buchanan (Edgerton) were once school friends, what did Carraway ever see in this pompous fool or why Daisy would ever marry him. Daisy, the lost love, is played by Carey Mulligan, does okay, but she doesn't really stun as The Woman who has impacted so many lives, especially becoming the obsession of the mysterious Gatsby.

I am not one to ever expect movies and books to be equals.  Still, the movie lacked depth.  It was a surface level.  Like Moulin Rouge, it is visual and mostly well acted but lacks depth that it needs to become truly great film. The Great Gatsby is worth the watch, but is merely okay.