Style but middling substance in Gatsby flick

An entertainment article!  Yes, they do happen from time to time. -j5

Baz Luhrmann’s all-Australian production of The Great Gatsby casts an over-dusty stretch of Outback as North Dakota.  Every generation the tale of North Dakota mobster James Gatz is retold.  This time, as ever, the film is decried as failing to capture the novel. I must disagree:  Though it brings its own problems, the tale shines through as bitter as ever.

The Great Gatsby is a thoroughly depressing tale written about 50 years ahead of its time.  Its debasement of the American Dream in a drugged haze is in much the same spirit as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Unlike Hunter S. Thompson, F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t instantly celebrated, and so our interpretation of Gatsby is mainly coloured by the divinations of English majors with time to kill doing radio interviews.  Being that I will read or watch a movie for its entertainment value, I have a different perspective.

For one, I liked the soundtrack!  Sure, it trotted out the three compositions from the era everyone still remembers, but the modernist fusion pieces capture the frenetic scene of the Roaring Twenties without sending the audience’s heads spinning as they question the merits of their great-grandparents’ popular music.

From the beginning of the film, its cinematography is questionable, it can best be described as a series of 3D stunts, especially painful to watch in 2D as the film’s cartoonish backdrops are stripped of their feigned depth.

The framing story of Nick writing the novel in a 1920s mental hospital, strains credulity, and the narration motif goes over the top, with longhand and type crawling over the screen.  Yes, we all know it’s a book.

As a DiCaprio vehicle it pales next to Django Unchained, but still, Gatsby’s timeless ennui and desperation stands apart from the rest, who are chained mercilessly to the stereotypes of the Twenties; gentlemanly silence about faithlessness, demure female characters who are seen but not heard, and overt racism in Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan.  At times, it was painful to watch.

Did I have fun?  Yeah, a bit.  Was it worth seeing for theatre ticket prices?  Probably not.

One thought on “Style but middling substance in Gatsby flick

  1. Old Sport, worry not. It was a worthwhile time to burn some 143 minutes, and yes, the soundtrack was great.

    Plus, Old Sport, I can never imagine North Dakota looking as dusty as Okie during the Dust Bowl. That just about blew it.

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