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18 May 2013

The Great Gatsby (Review): "Rich, Beautiful and Dirty But..."

The two stakes that hold the novel “The Great Gatsby” are its story and its message.  Beyond the pomp, pageantry and opulent splendor lie the classic theme that wealth ultimately corrupts people and that the great “American Dream” has gone amiss.  The incandescent surface does not reveal the dearth underneath.  Baz Luhrmann’s latest adaptation of the novel successfully captured the visual spectacle of the story but failed to showcase F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless theme.  The film is visually stunning but that is just about it.  The key problem is its overdesign.  We get it; the “Roaring Twenties” was an era of extravagance and wealth, and that is no different from our current milieu. Money is money in whatever time period. We get the point. Now, where is the substance of the story? I waited for the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s touch and I saw mostly Luhrman, Jay-Z and hear Beyonce and Lana Del Rey. 

Luhrmann is famous for effectively mixing time periods to tell a timeless story, and he did this masterfully in “Romeo+Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge.”  In the latter, the hallucinatory images add texture to a classic tragic love story.  In fact, the elaborate set design and costumes in “Moulin Rouge” and its soundtrack are all part of the film’s story.  The sets, the attires and the songs were also characters of the film and Luhrmann adeptly weave them all together to create a timeless love story. 

"Fitzgerald's female characters seem more like
rich bitches than romantic lovers, owing perhaps
to the fact that Fitzgerald had to prove himself
economically worthy of  being a husband to rich
women, first Ginevra King and later Zelda Sayre" 

Top: Carrey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, and
Ginevra King, the inspiration for Daisy. King had
a romantic relationship with Fitzgerald but
he was unable to marry her because of
Fitzgerald economic status. King's father told
Fitzgerald that "poor boys shouldn't think of
marrying rich girls."
Bottom: F. Scott Fitzgerald and the
original cover of the novel.  
All images, except for Carrey Mulligan's
picture, are part of public domain.
Use of Non-Free Media. Click this.
In his adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” Luhrmann drowned the story with his visual circus.  The film is still entertaining to watch but the theme of the movie struggles to break through the thick veil of superficial beauty. Perhaps unlike “Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby” is based on a novel that had inspired many generations, and so most of us who are familiar with the story and love F. Scott Fitzgerald want more. (Yes, we pesky literature major, screw us ! Right?)

The characters in Luhrmann’s adaptation are very unfamiliar to me.  The Daisy Buchanan of this film seems more genuinely in love but lost and conflicted making her sympathetic to the audience. This is quite different from how F. Scott Fitzgerald had intended her.  The Jay Gatsby of this film is less convincing and I saw more of the Leonardo Di Caprio persona than the actual “Gatsby” himself. 

I still like Baz Luhrmann’s style and “The Great Gatsby” is still a good date movie. Luhrmann’s interpretation of the film will certainly dazzle moviegoers who love lavish big budget music videos. However, in our time where people still believe money can bring you anything, including the past, in my opinion, we need to understand what F. Scott Fitzgerald was trying to say than what music videos are trying to boast, which is “I’m rich, beautiful, dirty and famous mother f*****! And I’m crazy in love!”

Bago magsimula ang pelikula at habang nanonood ng mga movie trailers, may narinig ako sa dalawang babaeng nakaupo sa aking likuran.

B1: Sayang, hindi ko kasama si X, this is his kind of films kasi, kapag na nanonood kami, ina-analyze naming ang lahat, performance at symbols. 
B2: “Bromance” pala, napanood na ninyo?
B1: Yes, napanood na namin. Nakakatawa, watch mo. Pero we don’t analyze kapag Tagalog movies, lahat nasa harapan mo na. Isusubo mo na lang.  

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