Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

Image via chud.com

Rating: 4 out of 5

Well, well, old sport! I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the latest rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece which most of us know and love.

However, I can understand why critics are especially negative with this film. With Baz Luhrmann as director and screenwriter and Jay Z as executive producer, we all knew that this could have been an extravagant hot mess. Of course, most still think it is, but I’m of the opinion that it could have been so much worse.

I mean, who could deny how absolutely gorgeous the costumes, cars, and sets were! I’ll deal with Gatsby’s irritating repetition of his catchphrase “old sport,” because all the shimmer and sparkle made me want to throw on a flapper dress and learn the foxtrot!

Given all the pomp and circumstance, I wasn’t expecting such a character-driven film. I felt that the casting was excellent, and I’m not just talking about Leonardo “He STILL doesn’t have an Oscar?!” DiCaprio.

Carey Mulligan was an exquisite Daisy, torn between her love for Gatsby and her obligations as a respectable married woman. Joel Edgerton nailed it as her racist, possessive husband Tom Buchanan. Even Tobey Maguire made a decent Nick Carraway, but that’s mostly because both he and Nick have people constantly wondering, “How did this square get into the cool kids’ club?”

Seriously, how do I get an invitation? (Image via TheGlitterGuide.com)

Sure, this movie was over-the-top and melodramatic. Might I add that the 1974 version was too, just without all the fireworks and confetti. And don’t forget that Fitzgerald’s characters were written to be affected and biased! Everyone’s playing a role in this grand vision inside their own heads–which is why it’s so tragic when everything falls apart.

Cinematically, this film suffers from its emphasis on gratuitous 3D scenes. I could do without the frequent shots of the two mansions across the bay or the tacky depiction of Myrtle’s unfortunate end. But after watching “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!,” it’s not like Luhrmann’s flamboyant style was at all shocking.

What I wasn’t expecting was how clever this adaptation was, tipping its hat to the one before it. I caught two references to the 1974 predecessor, one where a party guest repeats Mia Farrow’s famous line, but this time to Nick instead of Gatsby. The hissy fit in which Farrow throws clothes at Robert Redford was also altered to Dicaprio delightedly tossing the clothes to Mulligan to display his newfound wealth.

Even the soundtrack was more subtle than I thought it would be. I smirked when I heard “Crazy in Love” during Gatsby’s tea party-induced anxiety, but the songs work in a weird way. And if Kanye West, Lana del Rey, and Gotye make The Great Gatsby more relevant for the Millennial generation, so be it.

So on a scale from “The Golden Compass” to “Fight Club” in terms of how good this adaptation was translating book to film, I’d give “The Great Gatsby” an above average. Perhaps along the same lines as “The Hunger Games.”

I think that The Telegraph’s review put it best when finding the perfect piece of dialogue to sum up the sentiment of this remake:

“Do you think it’s too much?” frets Gatsby, after burying Nick’s living room in flowers in advance of his fateful afternoon tea with Daisy. “I think it’s what you want,” shrugs Nick. Then Gatsby, with a thoughtful look and no apology: “I think so, too.”

So cheers, old sport! (Image via RedCarpetCrash.com)

Book News!

It’s been an eventful week, not only for me, since I was a bridesmaid in one of my closest friends’ wedding last weekend, but also for book news! Here’s the recap:

Today would’ve been T.S. Eliot’s 124th birthday! My favorite Eliot moment was when we were reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at UC Santa Cruz, and some hippie chick thought the protagonist was strong and brave, despite the entire class politely explaining that he was a weak, pathetic character. She couldn’t deal with the fact that there are wrong answers in poetry, and stormed out of class crying. Interpretation is key to literary scholars, but I think we know that T.S. Eliot was not a rainbows-and-puppies kind of writer.

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby gets a North American release date of May 10, 2013. Coming Soon commented that this may not be a good choice, since the second week of May has opened quite a few duds. You mean, you couldn’t tell by the modern soundtrack?

Similar to Miley Cyrus flipping Disney the bird with her scandalous antics, J.K. Rowling is proving she can’t be tamed with her first post-Potter novel, Casual Vacancy. The New Yorker published an extensive profile on the author, who discusses the book’s adult themes and her unwillingness to write for critics. Reviews might be negative, but with the money she’s made with Potter, I say that she can write whatever she damn well pleases.

Speaking of flipping the bird, in a complete act of disrespect, Billy Connolly, who’s playing dwarf Dain Ironfoot in “The Hobbit,” called Tolkien “unreadable” and insulted devoted fans of the author. It’s a shame Peter Jackson can’t donate your salary to charity, because with that kind of attitude, you don’t deserve such an amazing career opportunity anyway.

The world of TV is working on its latest facepalm, this time a modern drama based on Wuthering Heights. Tentatively titled “Napa,” the story has swapped Victorian England for California wine country. I love a good soap opera, but leave Bronte out of it, will you, screenwriters? That’s a tale that needs no improving!

Lastly, my blog has been gaining traffic due to the release of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Unfortunately, it’s only in limited theaters (none of which are close to me), so it looks like I’ll be catching it when it comes out on DVD. But feel free to re-read my book review here!

So there you have it! What other book news has sparked your interest?

Fireworks and Flappers and Gatsby, Oh My!

So the whole entertainment industry was a twitter (literally) yesterday about “The Great Gatsby” trailer. As a big Carey Mulligan fan, I was excited to see the first shots of her as Daisy Buchanan. But now that the trailer’s out, I feel conflicted. Take a look for yourself:

Obviously, Baz Luhrmann as director is going to split opinions. I’ve seen “Romeo + Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge!” and while I appreciate their cinematic style, it’s not my favorite cup of tea. But I understood that the glitz and glamour would be the main attraction of “The Great Gatsby,” especially given that the film will be shown in 3D. (Don’t worry, keep reading, because I’ll address that nonsense, too!)

This burlesque angle will attract a bigger audience, incorporating non-readers. The trailer was flashy and sexy, and I admit that the costumes and sets looked amazing. But the purist inside me is groaning.

I think this YouTube comment by user Evanm3 summed it up: “‘New York, 1922…’ [cue music by Kanye] Fail.” I mean, seriously? I can’t stand historical films with modern soundtracks (I’m looking at you, “A Knight’s Tale”). Even if the movie is excellent, the cognitive dissonance is hard to ignore.

I just feel that the last major adaptation of this novel, the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, suffered from excessive melodrama, and now this 2012 remake is making the same mistake. It seems like neither film has much acting cred, and I’m afraid the film will come off campy. Leo and Carey are capable of so much more, and I wasn’t feeling their empty, emotionless lines.

And let’s discuss this obsession with 3D, shall we? I’m a huge opponent of this Hollywood movement, because it prioritizes explosions and flinging food-stuffs over quality storylines and characters. But since 3D’s something that’s not going away, it needs to stay in crappy action movies like “Wrath of the Titans.” Step away from the book adaptations! Does “The Great Gatsby” need 3D? Absolutely not!  For once, why can’t 1922 be 1922, without all the added pomp and circumstance?

Of course, I still want to see this movie–I wouldn’t be a good book blogger if I didn’t! But I’m a bit warier now, and will be approaching the remake with more skepticism.

What do you guys think? Did the trailer turn you on or off? Share your thoughts!