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 Review Reblog: The Great Gatsby

Hi everyone!

Today I’ll be watching Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s movie adaptation! I am pretty skeptical about the success of this attempt to translate Fitzgerald’s masterpiece on film, especially with its dubious modern soundtrack, but I’m going to go in with an open mind. No matter what, it will make for a great movie review, so be sure to revisit Book Club Babe soon!

To celebrate the occasion, here’s an updated reblog of my book review of The Great Gatsby, which I originally published on Aug. 1, 2011:

Cover of "The Great Gatsby"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5

The novel follows the protagonist Nick Carraway, who has come back from the first world war and moved into a house next to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is a mysterious millionaire obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an attractive albeit shallow woman married to Tom.

Daisy is also Nick’s cousin, so he comes to know all of the couple’s secret affairs: Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, who is also married to a mechanic named George.

Although the premise of the novel is simply of unrequited love and adultery, what makes it a masterpiece is Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. He packs so much emotion and insight into each sentence that you can’t help be awed by the story. Because Nick is the narrator, not Gatsby, you’re like a fly on the wall who feels so close to the characters, and yet so detached from them at the same time. True understanding for the reader is just as appealing and unattainable as the green light shining across Daisy’s dock.

Fitzgerald, of course, writes what he lives. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the “Roaring ’20s;” all the clothes, cars, dancing, and parties really paint the picture of America during this time. Fitzgerald is also an autobiographical author, basing his characters on the people around him, and I would love to read more of his work [EDITOR’S NOTE: I have taken this statement back. Read my unsatisfied review of Tender is the Night to learn why].

Most of you have probably already read The Great Gatsby, but I try not to spoil the novels I feature, just for the few who might be interested in picking them up. And since Hollywood is working on a new adaptation (starring Tobey Maguire as Nick, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy), this would be an excellent time for fans to reread Fitzgerald’s best work–if anything, to get the bad taste out of your mouth from watching the hilariously melodramatic 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

“Haven’t you heard? Rich girls don’t marry POOR BOYS!”

So feel free to share your love (or loathing!) of The Great Gatsby!

Favorite Quote: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Ch. 9)

Tender is the Night: Book Three

Rating: 2 out of 5

Ugh, finally done with Tender is the Night. It’s sad because I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby so much, and although I haven’t read his other novels, I feel disillusioned. I’ve talked to people who have read This Side of Paradise or The Beautiful and the Damned, and everyone seems to agree that Gatsby is simply the best. So let’s just wrap up this dud, shall we?

Dick Diver’s reputation has been completely destroyed in Book Three, due to his alcoholism [See my reviews of Book One and Two]. He is called as a psychologist to cure a young man’s homosexuality (yes, the 1930s were not well known for tolerance, unfortunately), but he declares the case a lost cause.

He later finds out that his wife Nicole’s father–the one who raped her as a child–is now dying. He tries to prevent Nicole from seeing him for her own sanity, but by the time they arrive, the man has run away. The reader never finds out what happened to him, but sadly if you’ve gotten this far into the novel, you just want it to end–closure or no closure.

Dick gets kicked out of the clinic after a father of an recovering alcoholic patient complains that his son can smell the liquor off Dick. Dick continues to be an obnoxious drunk, and when Rosemary pays a visit again, it’s the final straw for Nicole. She writes to Tommy Barban, who has been obviously in love with her for years, and they begin their affair.

Tommy eventually tells Dick that Nicole loves him now, and they all agree to end the marriage. Nicole takes the children and marries Tommy, and Dick returns to America to practice medicine. The novel ends with Nicole hearing through the grapevine that Dick jumps from town to town, girl to girl, never seeming to escape his problems and find happiness.

This is a story of great irony, given that Nicole becomes healthy at Dick’s expense. The fact that the tale ends with Nicole’s point of view further proves how Dick has devolved from a charismatic, successful doctor into a troubled, miserable man who disappears as a mere rumor. Nicole, once the psychotic patient, has become the center of the story.

Like I’ve said before, Fitzgerald is known for writing what he knows, since he suffered from alcoholism and own wife Zelda had to be sent to mental institutions. Reading this novel just makes me pity the author, not admire him. Nothing can beat  the power of The Great Gatsby, so I do not recommend this lesser work.

My life will completely revolve around my comprehensive exam next week, so I might not have time to blog, but we’ll see. I’m stressed up to my eyeballs since my graduation depends on this test, so I can’t wait until I can breathe again. Not to mention, I just bought Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel I’ve Got Your Number, and it’s killing me that I can’t read it yet! Alas! The woes of a busy bibliophile!

Favorite Quote of Book Three: “Either you think–or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”

Tender is the Night: Book One

Image via FreeBookNotes

I’m half-way done with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, and although it does not possess the power of The Great Gatsby, it’s at least intriguing and gets more so with time. Published in 1933, this novel was given mixed reviews; many critics disapproved of its decadence since most people were struggling during the Great Depresssion.

Indeed, when the book opens, you know you’re dealing with the upper class. Set in 1925 in the south of France, 17-year-old upcoming American actress Rosemary Hoyt meets Dick and Nicole Diver, the quintessential “perfect” couple. Dick’s a psychologist in his 30s, and Rosemary falls in love with him immediately.

The Divers invite Rosemary to a party, where she confesses her feelings for him while he ignores her. Later, a woman named Violet McKisco stumbles upon Dick and Nicole in their bathroom, and she hints at something’s she seen when talking to the other guests, but she’s told to mind her own business.

Although Dick loves his wife–even planning an afternoon rendezvous with her in one scene–he still kisses and flirts with Rosemary. He doesn’t sleep with her due to her innocence, but Rosemary is determined to get her way regardless of the consequences.

During this whole love story, an alcoholic friends of theirs named Abe North is stirring up trouble. At one point he’s robbed and accuses a black man of the crime, starting a race riot. At the hotel where Rosemary’s staying, Abe is followed by Jules Peterson, a black shoemaker who testified for Abe. Dick and Rosemary shoo them off to have a romantic moment, but afterward Rosemary finds Jules shot dead in her room–killed by a man who was angered by his testimony.

Dick convinces the hotel manager to remove the body without questions so as to save Rosemary’s acting career, and when Nicole is heard screaming from the other room, Rosemary finally realizes what Violet McKisco saw at the party: Nicole’s mental instability.

If you know anything about Fitzgerald, you know that this novel is semi-autobiographical, since his own wife Zelda also suffered from mental instability during their marriage, remaining in institutions until she died. In fact, Fitzgerald has been critiqued by other expat writers like Hemingway for creating characters too similar to real people.

If that’s the case, I feel sorry for those real people, because most of the time they’re completely selfish. Rosemary doesn’t care about Nicole when she’s with Dick, instead compartmentalizing affair from marriage. None of the characters care about Jules, with Dick saying “It’s only some nigger scrap” while getting rid of his dead body. Blatant racism may be able to be chocked up the time period, but an overall disregard for human life or relationships is equally disturbing.

However, Fitzgerald is an exquisite writer, filling each scene with tons of foreshadowing and symbolism. He juxtaposes American and European, white and black, rich and poor,  as well as the image of “perfect” on the outside while crumbling underneath.

Sometimes you don’t even recognize the meaning of certain elements, such as the title of Rosemary’s debut film “Daddy’s Girl,” until more info is revealed (It alludes to Rosemary’s relationship with Dick, but also Nicole’s with her own father–which will be discussed in Book Two).

I’ll save my rating until I’ve reviewed the whole novel, but right now I’d say the story’s above average but with definite room for improvement. I’m sure Fitzgerald himself wondered how he’d top The Great Gatsby, so even though he failed to surpass it in my opinion, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to read more of his profound work.

Favorite Quote of Book One: “If you’re in love it ought to make you happy.”

Vote for my 20th (and possibly last) book of the year!

Ok readers, I have a favor to ask of you! I’ve set a goal for myself that I will read 20 books this year. Actually, this goal wasn’t intended, but looking at my reading pace a few months ago, I figured 20 would be a nice, achievable number (I’m not including any non-fiction I’ve read this year). Many of you probably read 20 books in a month, but alas I have sacrificed most of my potential reading time to grad school.

Anyways, I’m currently reading my 19th novel, A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella), which is a pleasant piece of chick-lit after my run of dsytopian classics. And now I’d like YOU to vote for my 20th book of the year! (Considering how busy I am writing my final paper and preparing for the holidays, it’s quite possible that it might even be my last book of 2011! *cue ominous music* DUN DUN DUN!!!

Here’s your choices:

  1. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  4. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell

So let me know which one I should read and why…My fate is now in your hands!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, and–of course–thanks for reading!

Love, Book Club Babe

Masterpiece Monday: The Great Gatsby

Cover of

Cover of The Great Gatsby

Rating: 5 out of 5

So I’m starting another SAT prep class today, and when I teach the essay section, I follow a five-paragraph structure with an intro, conclusion, and three body paragraphs–each with a personal, historical, and literary example. That way, they answer the prompt with specific arguments rather than vague, undeveloped notions.

I’ve been doing these classes for a year now, and it’s so amusing how predictable their literary examples get. One of their favorites is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925 and has now become required reading for most juniors in California.

The novel follows the protagonist Nick Carraway, who has come back from the first world war and moved into a house next to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is a mysterious millionaire obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an attractive albeit shallow woman married to Tom. Daisy is also Nick’s cousin, so he comes to know all of the couple’s secret affairs: Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, who is also married to a mechanic named George.

Although the premise of the novel is simply of unrequited love and adultery, what makes it a masterpiece is Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. He packs so much emotion and insight into each sentence that you can’t help be awed by the story. Because Nick is the narrator, not Gatsby, you’re like a fly on the wall who feels so close to the characters, and yet so detached from them at the same time. True understanding for the reader is just as appealing and unattainable as the green light shining across Daisy’s dock.

Fitzgerald, of course, writes what he lives. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the “Roaring ’20s;” all the clothes, cars, dancing, and parties really paint the picture of America during this time. Fitzgerald is also an autobiographical author, basing his characters on the people around him, and I would love to read more of his work (Tender is the Night and This Side of Paradise, especially) to learn more about his fascinating life.

Most of you have probably already read The Great Gatsby, but I try not to spoil the novels I feature, just for the few who might be interested in picking them up. And since Hollywood is working on a new adaptation for fall 2012 (starring Tobey Maguire as Nick, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy), this would be an excellent time for fans to reread Fitzgerald’s best work–if anything, to get the bad taste out of your mouth from watching the hilariously melodramatic 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

"Haven't you heard?! Rich girls don't marry POOR BOYS!"

Well, I better prepare for my class now, but feel free to share your love (or loathing!) of The Great Gatsby!

Favorite Quote: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Ch. 9)