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‘Great Gatsby’ gets blingy 2013 update

May 29, 2013
By Tony Rutherford (letters@graffitiwv.com) , Graffiti

Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald has a cautionary theme concerning the impact of glitz, greed, and a culture of excess that prevailed during the Roaring 20s, only to crash in the Great Depression.

After an ill-fitting rap music introduction and seemingly stilted acting up to the film's first Gatsby mansion party, this extravagant film adaptation shifts into an unrequited love story, surrounding a trio of murky provocative persons, each depicting peculiarities that surge and plunge characters from empowered to emotional paralysis.

Told through an observant Nick Carraway (Toby McGuire), the trio of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) saunter under microscopic analysis. Having graduated from Yale, Carraway's entry level Wall Street position proves secondary to living next to an elusive tycoon and Nick's own biological relationship to Daisy Buchanan who's married to a wealthy businessman across the bay.

His connection to Daisy elevates his social status in the form of a personal invitation to one of the weekly celebrations where society's high rollers dance, drink and mingle amidst fashionable flappers, bellowing vocalists, and a mass of silent servants handing out high price munchies, beverages, and party favors which lure the jewel and pinstripe crowd to steer their luxurious vehicles back same time next week.

The mansion's owner has all that money can purchase; yet he needs assistance from his dowdy unsophisticated neighbor to set up a meeting with Daisy for tea. She happens to be the one who got away while he served in the military.

As rumors of the foundation for Gatsby's fortune waver, another perception flows from the screen. Tom and Gatsby both profess love for Daisy. Ask yourself, which one loves her the most?

One female perspective steadfastly answered Gatsby. Inquiring whether the symbol of excessive wealth was obsessed with her or pondered her as a rich man's trophy, I was reminded of the Great One's references to forsaking starry dreams for the love of one woman.

Yet, Gatsby has swaying multiple personalities. He's confident and sociable when business networking comes to the table, or when a phone jangles.

Director Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge," "Romeo & Juliet," "Strictly Ballroom") defines the "Gatsby" perfect adaptation rubric which lured big screen filmmakers in the 20s, 40s and 70s. Filling the plate with gaudy opulence, Daisy, Tom and Gatz lack no material desire, yet, like their society groupies, excessive wealth and its accompanying power, their overflowing mansions filled with luxurious stuff guarantee diversions, but not so happiness, love, or universal acceptance.

Retaining poetic descriptors that inject "having it all but" anguish, Carey Mulligan epitomizes Daisy's lost sense of self indefinitely wooed by the instant smile, touch or kiss of the moment. Joel Edgerton adds a stern stoic and gentlemanly quality with mannerisms quickly foregone by a rattling, "it's too hot to fuss" (about life altering matters).

DiCaprio's Gatsby encompasses an elusiveness, hints of uncontrollable obsession, ultra ambitious strengths, and boyish awkwardness when approaching his beloved.

Rap music was unfortunately shoe horned into the so-called updated soundtrack, which has bewildering swing and sway moments. The rap being particularly jarring, especially in a near opening party scene, threatening to permanently distill the 20s period piece. Ironically, a glimpse of the rare 1949 black and white version starring Alan Ladd had trademark 20s flapper and boozing party scenes nixed due to the "morals" code of that era. However, two violent essentials push code limits.

Debating the film with a Fitzgerald fan, the viewer had strong satisfaction with the novel-to-screen adaptation, all things considered, including most of the period set and art direction (noticed, however, inaccurate fingernail polish color for 20s, and modern looking clothing or accessories as well) however, noted a beautifully dazzling title sequence.

Although most scholars view the narrator Nick as a "stand-in" for the author, an alternative viewpoint has been expressed i.e. that Gatsby himself more reflects Fitzgerald's own persona. Nick is essentially not a true character, but merely a neutral narrator, like a bystander at a crime scene.

Granted, Luhrmann's "Gatsby" has a glittering, yet dowdy, first act that nearly exaggerates recognizable symbolism into inconsolable camp. Acting, narrative and visuals intervene illustrating the forlorn abandonment suffered from unrequited love and misplaced goals.

 
 

 

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