Friday, May 24, 2013

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby

I adored this movie. And yes, at the end, I balled great big splashy tears. Ignore the critics who don't value it. I suspect that this movie will take a few years to gain critical did the novel which sold poorly and was greeted with lukewarm reviews waaay back in 1925. It's like they can't appreciate the movie because they hold the novel in such high esteem which renders it totally unattainable in some sort of ironic fashion.

Why did I love this movie? The actors, the soundtrack (more on this in a later post), the vivid beautiful gaudy colors that start to fade after the vibrant party scenes. The movie takes on a blue'ish tint once Daisy and Gatsby reconnect. Leo's pink suit in the devastating hotel room scene. Elizabeth Debicki who brought a certain substance to Jordan Baker which I wasn't able to quite get a vivid mental view of from the book. Isla Fisher (the girl in Confessions of a Shopholic?? Shut. Up.) as Myrtle. The young actors portraying Gatsby actually look like Leo (does it drive anyone else bonkers that the actors portraying the young Don Draper during the depression flashbacks on Mad Men look absolutely nothing like Jon Hamm??). Carey Mulligan's big sad eyes lend an air of soulfullness to Daisy. You keep rooting for her to make the right decision.

Luhrmann borrows heavily from the language of the novel. And really, why not? If you're starting with such lyrical prose, why not use it? I had chills each time I recognized a line pulled directly from the novel. Luhrmann places Nick Carraway in a sanitarium recovering form "morbid alcoholism" which frames the film, and gives the movie a dream-like quality. The saturated colors, for me, exemplify this dream-like quality...because memories are brighter and bolder than reality, right?

Luhrmann brought to life two scenes that I found hard to visualize from the novel. First, his depiction of the Valley of the Ashes. Maybe I'm not a careful reader, but I didn't get that the Valley of the Ashes is the coal mine that fuels the fire of New York City. You could feel the heat.

The second scene is when Gatsby starts to shower Daisy with the finest shirts as he gives her and Nick a tour of his bedroom. I didn't grasp the magnitude of the room, and that Gatsby is essentially on the balcony above which is lined by row after row after row after row of closest space.

Leo DiCaprio is Gatsby. He managed to capture the vulnerability of someone who's trying to be something he is not. In this case, a blueblood. The scene when he first meets up with Daisy at Nick's cottage is heartbreakingly sweet and dorky. The devastatingly hotel scene will blow you away as Tom relentlessly chips away at Gatsby's confidence and facade and hope just as the hotel clerk chipped away at the giant block of ice to serve with Tom's whiskey. And the final scene. What can you say about it? The everlasting hope in Gatsby's quest to envelope Daisy is brilliantly displayed across Leo's face as he hears the phone ring.

What didn't I like? To be honest, I'm really searching, but I didn't like the portrayal of Myrtle's husband, Wilson. I thought he was played too dim witted. He reminded me of Lennie from Of Mice and Men ("can I tend the rabbits, George?").

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