The new adaption of The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann is something I have been itching for since it was announced. I am a true lover of the novel, having only recently studied it for my A level English course and am keen to see it translated onto the big screen with as much literary integrity as possible. It has a stellar cast of up and coming Brit favourite Carey Mulligan and Hollywood 21st century heavyweights Leonardo DiCaprio and his younger counterpart Toby Maguire. Mulligan was fabulous in An Education but I was always nervous about any actress taking on the role of the wonderfully vapid and effervescent Daisy Buchanan. Mia Farrow did, what I consider, the best possible portrayal in the down-to-earth 1974 adaption and embodied the beautifully shallow creature that was Gatsby's long lost love resplendently. Robert Redford wasn't half bad himself as the mysterious definition of a walking enigma. Criticised as being too close a take on the novel, this latest attempt may completely blow it out of the water in terms of party factor.
This is the novel's fifth film adaption. Arguably one of the most unadaptable films, along with the On The Road by Kerouac also due to be released later this year, because of Fitzgerald's complex and richly woven tapestry of strong characterisation which is almost overshadowed - but not completely transcended - by the seductive hedonism of the Jazz Age and the uncomfortable corruption of the American Dream. It has been called the "quintessential American novel" with Gertrude Stein, Fitzgerald's roaring twenties contemporary, noting that the age was characteristic of a "lost generation of men and women adrift in a chaotic hell of their own solipsism".
The 2000 adaption was one of the most painful films I have ever sat through. It was devoid of any sort of cinematic magic and the actors looked so uncomfortable I wanted, like Nick, to call for the police immediately -although it was nowhere near the absolute squirmy-red-faced-can't-bear-it-any-longer Baz Luhrmann William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet adaption in which Shakespeare's original verse is jarringly interwoven with a modern day gangster getup - while DiCaprio and Danes were undeniably cute and fresh faced it metaphorically and literally riddled the original with distasteful metallic bullets. Certainly, then, this glitteringly shiny new production from Warner Bros has a lot to live up to. Indeed, the trailer has just been released and provides interesting insight into the adaption's take on Fitzgerald's most iconic novel.
Fitzgerald's complex and richly woven tapestry of strong characterisation is almost overshadowed by the seductive hedonism of the Jazz Age.
It starts off with, not the Charleston, but, controversially, a Kanye West/Jay Z collaboration "No Church in the Wild" a rather anachronistic choice. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising considering the titillating use of Lady Marmalade in Moulin Rouge. From the word go, we are treated to exuberant and lavish settings, demonstrating the splendour of prohibition wealth and decadence with fabulous costumes and mind-blowing parties. Already its apparent that this film is going to be dipped in gold to within an inch of its life; portraying the 20s as one long, legendary party.
Unlike many youtube commenters, I can understand the modern music, it reeks of exclusivity and flowing excess, screaming for your sensual attention, derivative of the modern Hollywood celebrity lifestyle. However, it is undoubtedly tarnished by a terribly synthesised introductory voice over from DiCaprio who sets the the "tempo" of the hysteric "restlessness" of 1922. I take issue. First and foremost, it is narrated by the character of Gatsby, while the novel is purely the recollection of Nick's, the crucially imperfect narrator and social voyeur; it is not taken from the original novel (how blasphemous!); and how it was able to be released without someone, anyone, noticing the horrific digital curdling of DiCaprio's smooth voice is beyond me.
The trailer focuses its attention on the Gatsby-Daisy love story line with a brief glance but no mention of Myrtle Wilson and a don't-blink-or-he'll-disappear cameo from Tom Buchanan. It gives little sense of story line (boy meets girl) and only fragmentingly introduces Gatsby's character, rather, it focuses on futuristic but still 20s party atmosphere with the occasional shot of a huge mansion, fast cars and the hungry, bright lights of New York City, imbued with rich leather, flowers and silk. The dazzling landscape and party scenes have a technological unrealistic tinge which adds an atmosphere of futuristic illusion - not unlike the futuristic dystopic society of the Capitol in the recent adaption of The Hunger Games.
It would appear that it lacks the subtle edge of the novel and the character development looks fairly questionable. The brief interactions between Gatsby/DiCaprio and Daisy/Mulligan looks less than perfect and are characterised by their strong sexual tension coloured with loving and longing looks - in one unfortunate and uncomfortable scene DiCaprio just looks severely baffled… while Mulligan looks a little unbelievable as Daisy through her obviously British accent. It starts optimistic and finishes with an ominous end giving its potential audience the lingering sense of danger intermingled with such wonder and wealth. The use of the dangerously sounding Jack White's "Love is Blindness" only adds to the increasingly tense mood. The stunning shot of DiCaprio overseeing the glitter bonanza of raucous goings on in his back garden is simply sunning and he looks like he might, save for the previously mentioned scene, hit the Gatsby nail on the head. On the condition that he can carry off the full blown silent mystery that clings to Gatsby's British shirts he may prove a success.
It would appear that it lacks the subtle edge of the novel and the character development looks fairly questionable.
As for exploring the full extent of the novels intricacy, significance and the complexity of the characters, it should be an interesting film. I am sure many literary puritans may have issue with Baz Luhrmann's take - especially if it deviates substantially from the novel. It is important to remember that this is only a tiny piece of a 140ish long picture, although it certainly does go about establishing the films atmosphere, highly different to previous adaption's. Nevertheless, it is definitely on my Christmas must watch list, not only because of my love of the book but I am always one for some glitter, especially when its attached to one Mr Leonardo DiCaprio.
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