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Saturday, September 14, 2013

"The Great Gatsby", Fitzgerald for Dummies

The Great Gatsby

I knew this was going to happen. I really saw this review coming. And I was right. Ouch, that hurts beyond what's bearable...

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe director Baz Luhrmann is a visionary. Maybe he just made this awful, incredibly simplistic and shallow film just to attract the youngster generation. Maybe he thought "look at these kids, they cannot read more than their whattsup one-liners. We need to bring them the best stories, in this case one of the finest examples of American literature, in a language they can understand". In Luhrmann's opinion, I believe, that means reducing Fitzgerald's book to a one-line plot: incredibly rich millionaire gives amazing parties but he's unhappy because he can't have the chick he loves. Period.  I imagine Luhrmann adding: "Now kids, here's the lesson to learn, the profound message I'm offering you in this film, so try to be focused: even the richest cry sometimes. Astonishing, right? You don't have to thank me. I'm just that great". Well Baz, NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

Sure. Even the less smart of the Smartphone users can get Luhrmann's only idea on his "The Great Gatsby". But that doesn't mean they will have even the less remote clue of what was Fitzgerald's masterpiece about. It's not a question of being faithful or not to the original text (it was ages ago, but I do remember being extremely bored with Robert Redford's Gatsby version, and believe me, few books are more moving and engaging). It's just that he has decided to go for the most superficial, to an incongruous extreme, take of the book. It's all surface, as bombastic, flamboyant and 3-D as you want, but with less than zero insight. So, even you don't give a damn about the adaptation of the original story, what you get is so shallow that you won't get a film that's worth the effort either. "The Avengers" might have the same amount of depth than this Gatsby. And that's unacceptable.

Granted, "The Great Gatsby" first half is a visual feast in the vein of "Molin Rouge" (but now on 3-D folks!, so go to cinema and pay even more for that!). But exclusively visual. From the very beginning, characters are introduced and then completely ruined. A good actor like Tobey Maguire makes the dumbest impersonation of Nick Carraway I could ever imagine. He just stays there, mouth open, a silly kid enlightened by the exotism, the noise, the chicks, the confetti and grandeur of his neighbour. That's not the character Fitzgerald wrote. At all. Carey Mulligan's as Daisy deserves a separate comment. Don't know if that's Luhrmann, Mulligan or both fault, but what a disastrous performance. Exactly in the same vein as she did in "Shame", without the suicidal tendencies, with the similar annoyingly results. DiCaprio, the only remarkable of the film (and the reason the rating below isn't lower) makes a vivid impersonation of Gatsby, that grows from the shameful "perfume advertising" first looks to a much somber character, much closer to the troubled, complex and absorbing character Fitzgerald penned. Still, Di Caprio is alone, so he can't help the feeling he's performing on a ridiculously expensive and lush but fake and empty set. Fitzgerald's were powerful, extremely rich yet still misterious, obscure, not very likeable yet absorbing characters. Human contradictions, ambitions and miseries revealed. Nothing to do with this. The National's Matt Berninger penned the perfect definition for the characters you'll find on the film: "a television version of a person with a broken heart". Fakers.    

There's more to rant about. Of course, the music. We get it, partying is partying, but being a film directed to kids it's better to go for a much modern, cooler soundtrack, full of Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Will.I.Am... well hell no Baz. You did quite well (at least watchable) with "Romeo & Juliet" before with the soundtrack... because you translated Shakespeare story to a contemporary context, but not this time. Do you know what the Jazz Age means? Jazz is a very important part of the context where the story takes place... oh sorry, I forgot the director didn't care about the story. Ok, let's change the subject .Transitions. Hard to remember a film worse constructed. First, a lame lame trick so Nick Carraway can explain his insane fascination for Gatsby, so flashbacks are justified. Second, you can film as many flamboyant, flashy or slow-motioned dancing scenes you want, but they should carry you somewhere, or are we just contemplating a terribly long videoclip? Third, I can't remember just a drastic change in tempo and mood in any film seen in a long time. Party is over, so then let's go for a romantic drama. Drastically. And fourth, symbols should be subtle, if not become seriously upsetting there's no need to repeat once and again adverts or the green light. We got it. The kids too.

So, If you believe "The Great Gatsby" needed an adaptation for our digital age where information MUST fit in your mobile phone, then you have reasons to celebrate. Luhrmann has nailed it. But if you don't want to watch this "Fitzgerald for Dummies" version, just stick with the book. Have some faith in the kids next time Baz.

SCORE: 2/10

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