Monday, May 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby

I read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I hated it.

I didn't hate this movie. I didn't like it, though, and very little of the responsibility for that rests with the film's cast and crew. Certainly I dislike some of the choices the director made, but I expected that sort of thing from Baz Luhrmann. Mostly, though, I'm not at all impressed by the story. So, before I get to a review of the movie, a digression:
There will be plot spoilers, but come on - the book was published in 1925.
Speaking of 1925, the book was not popular then, and I think they had the right idea. Fitzgerald wanted to write something profound, apparently, but what he produced was a lot of pretty words about nothing. The narrator is a nonentity - he exists in the story only to be eyes for the reader. Daisy isn't much better, existing mostly as a plot point for the boys to obsess over. Gatsby is delusional - not lovestruck, but really mentally ill. Buchanan is cheating on his wife. None of these characters has any good qualities, nor do I feel any sympathy for their misfortunes.
Shyamalan should do an adaptation of this book. They deserve each other.

Back to the movie:
The movie was beautifully staged. The sets, the costumes, the placement of actors, all of this was done very well. The acting was lovely, especially DiCaprio and Mulligan. They did very well with the roles they were given, and it's not their fault that I don't like the characters or the plot.
The camerawork was unnecessarily showy, especially the repeated use of long, long zooms, particularly the vertical ones. The music - well, I was expecting something of the sort, given the trailer and the director. I liked Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, by the way. In this case, though, the insertion of modern music into a period story did not accomplish anything positive. It just made me wonder what else was anachronistic, which detracted from the lovely work by the costume and set departments.
The movie is watchable. It would be a quirky, fun romp except that it's a tragedy. It would be insightful except the characters' lives are so far removed from ours that they might as well be Martians. People like to draw elaborate parallels between the novel's setting and today's America, but I don't see it.

Gatsby goes last on my list for the year so far. That's right, below Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters. I feel a little bad, considering the relative production values, script, and acting quality, but I just hate this story that much.

If you do see this movie, avoid the 3D at all cost. I saw it in 3D only because the showtime was convenient. In retrospect, I would rather have lost two hours of sleep than have to endure that again. The 3D was worse than pointless - it was distracting and frequently outright bad.

1. Oblivion
2. Iron Man 3
3. Jack the Giant Slayer
4. Beautiful Creatures
5. Oz the Great and Powerful
6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
7. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
8. The Great Gatsby

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