Monday, May 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby

I wonder how many people that have criticized Baz Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby have ever actually read The Great Gatsby.  Maybe critics are still angry at Luhrmann for his version of Romeo and Juliet.  Sure, Luhrmann had teenagers who couldn't speak the cadence of Shakespeare scream and dance all over the screen.  Romeo and Juliet was deemed too over the top, too modern, too 90's, too everything.  People do not give credit for the trend it kicked off of Shakespeare adaptations directed toward teenagers.  After a modern, yet faithful rendition of Hamlet, the adaptations drifted further and further away from the source material, and in doing so, actually created legitimately good movies.  10 Things I Hate About You and "O" were completely modern, and completely well done movies.

But, I digress. Luhrmann received some flack, as he does, for Gatsby's modern soundtrack and "over the topness". I will tackle the "music" first.  In order to translate the feel of Gatsby's parties to a modern audience, and well, any of the numerous parties, including the one that prompted the excellent "Within and without soliloquy", you need modern music to convey the energy.

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

  In regards to the "over the topness", the 70's version of Gatsby was bland and unremarkable. Gatsby's home was astounding, and the parties were large, but it didn't feel special, it didn't feel energetic and it certainly didn't do justice to the idea of The Roaring 20's. Luhrmann's version produces a visceral kinetic energy that allows today's audience, which is used to overindulgence and being assaulted by various mediums, to understand and feel the greatness of these parties. To match Fitzgerald's writings, you have to create a world that exudes life and emotion and energy.

This isn't to say the movie is perfect. It isn't, and I don't like the narrative creation of the narrator writing to his therapist.  I would've preferred Nick Carraway whimsically writing his memoir's at an older age. Or plot device to structure the narrative at all, just narration, or tie it in at the end. What was settled on was weak, flimsy and unbelievable.

Overall, The Great Gatsby was a visually stunning movie with an excellent cast that did what all adaptations strive to do, effectively convey and honor the original.

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