Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some Notes on the Great Gatsby

My original entry on the Great Gatsby was complete with visuals, videos and a full multi-paragraph review but unfortunately the Blogger software mysteriously deleted it. The moral of the story? Wordpress is the answer.

In any case, here is an early draft of that review:
  • A product from Baz Luhrmann, the film was certainly guilty of what TV Tropes ( calls anachronism stew. The clearest examples of this are that much of the diagetic sound track would not have rap music and the costumes would not have been as revealing. This is an unusual case of anachronism stew, however, because it's how the film is marketed:"Come see Great Gatsby with Baz Luhrmann! Watch what happens when Baz Luhrmann mixes up a 1920's story with 21st century sensibilities and various trappings of all historic eras in between." Thus, every historic inaccuracy isn't so much a gaff but an artistic choice which makes the critical viewing experience a lot different. If you're not intimately familiar with the 1920's, it's an instinctual trust that what you're watching is inaccurate.
  • In reality, the soundtrack isn't as obnoxious as the trailer made it out to be with a screeching rendition of "Happy Together" combined with out-of-place rap music turned up to eleven. There's maybe two or three rap songs, a nicely reworked "Crazy in Love" (music director Jay-Z felt the need to plug his wife), and a U2 song but also a full orchestration of Rhapsody in Blue and an appropriately placed jazz trumpet. If anything the fast-paced editing was the main culprit for distraction. 
  • This film also narrowly beats out the Da Vinci Code for laziest use of stock footage I've ever seen in a film. It was fortunately used in such small doses that anyone hardly remembers
  • I imagine the audience score (80% of moviegoers in exit polls liked it as opposed to 50% of critics) was so high because the trailer and Baz Luhrmann's reputation were sufficient enough to steer anyone away who might give the film a thumbs down. In other words, Great Gatsby should be measured more on box office receipts because it already narrowed its audience with a polarizing preview. Previews are not supposed to be polarizing as they are generally created by film studios and not the director and those studios tend to like the widest audience possible. I imagine it was an inadvertent effect. 
  • Leo DiCaprio has had some of the best film performances of the last decade and deserves any role he wants, every one of the 51 times he said "Old Sport," I felt he just lacked the presence and gravity to carry it. While he is in his mid-to-late-30s, he plays around 30 which is a bit young for the part. I'm not suggesting Robert Redford is a better actor than Leo DiCaprio, but he looked exactly how Gatsby should as spelled out in the novel: A little older, broad-shouldered, aristocratic, distinguished. 
  • The hypervisual style of Baz Luhrmann can be wonderful at times and not work at others. The use of color in certain sequences (like Nick's first party) was especially wonderful in that your eye was drawn to the different colors on every flapper's dress. The tea party seemed like a slightly sunnier version of a Tim Burton film. The junkyard where Isla Fisher's garage was located was depicted as a bleak landscape that evoked more questions than answers and there was probably some symbolic reason as to why some post-apocalyptic landscape would exist between Great Neck, Long Island and Manhattan (if I'm not mistaken Flushing Meadows exists between those two cities, it's a very nice park). I don't suspect anyone thinks there's some consistent visual motif to the whole movie but rather just a lot of nifty things to look at..
  • I don't understand why Gatsby drove at super sonic speeds. I suppose at a certain point, the only explanation is that it's a Baz Luhrmann film but I imagine a car in the 1920's was probably going 30 miles per hour at best. 
  • On a somewhat related note: I have some cousins who live in Great Neck, New York which is what West and East End are a stand-in for. If you look on Google Earth you can see why the towns have those names. My cousins even showed me a house off in the woods that was supposedly the inspiration for Gatsby's mansion
  • Speaking of the mansion, I thought it was a plot hole that Gatsby would have a whole army of manservants. Maybe, he just contracted them for the parties. Wasn't he a humongous recluse?
  • Hello, Elizabeth Debicki! I will keep my eye out for your future filmography as you stole the show here

No comments: