Friday, May 10, 2013

Of Excess and Dreams - The Great Gatsby

Like a fine cut diamond traced in golden art deco patterns surrounding a passionate beating heart, the entirety of it the centerpiece of a hedonist's carnival, such was the tale and the 2013 film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrman's film delivered the beautiful, tragic dreamer of Jay Gatsby in the midst of a sea of drunken, unceasing revelry which truly roared just as powerfully as the happenings of the tale's setting in time, the aptly titled Roaring 20s. It featured commanding portrayals of classic characters with an eye-popping design scheme which terrifically represented the gluttony for finery demonstrated by the peoples who consistently wined, dined, and shamelessly played at playing all throughout that glitzy decade of yore.

 My wife and I woke early this morning to make our way to a small, five-screen theater just outside of town for a 3D showing of Gatsby. She had been anxiously awaiting the film's release since we first glimpsed the trailer in theaters last year. The both of us possess a familiarity with the novel, though we'd only each read it once many years prior. Regardless of our current distance from the work, we both share an appreciation for Fitzgerald, my wife being an avid fan of the expatriate circle which included Scott, his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and others.

From the icy, shadowy flashback at the beginning throughout Nick Carraway's (the narrator of the tale) recollection of the events surrounding his introduction to and the fall of Jay Gatsby, this movie radiated Fitzgerald and its period. Luhrman and his associates clearly did their research and rendered an idealized version of an era known for its splendor, its copious wealth, and its tremendous waste. Their script was as true to the novel as I can estimate, myself still trying to recollect my reading from the latter days of high school.

The film score was controversial for some, admittedly myself to some degree, but the incorporation of the modern music seemed inconsequential, seeming like so many gnats circling around a picturesque fruit arrangement. My wife believed it to serve to depict the cacophony of the booming city and the frantic, kinetic jumble of the party scenes. Though I had my doubts, I was overjoyed when Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was used to highlight the unveiling of the titular character himself as he stood beneath the firework-punctuated climax of his glamorous soirée. It was also welcome, though expected, when classic tunes from the period wound their way through the scenes.

Leonardo DiCaprio performed masterfully as Jay Gatsby, emboldening the character's qualities as the wildly dreaming, hopeful idealist. He led a cast of splendid actors and actresses who all assembled to provide a considerable pulse to the tragedy. Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, a portrayal which many critics seem to have been all too eager to assault, wonderfully led the viewer through the story while playing a character who was both new to the wild life of the city and yet broken by the horrible people who tailored the terrible events which filled its many apartments and lined its streets. Carey Mulligan delivered an emotional yet distant woman of the period who both loved and failed the concept of true love as only a shallow person might. Tom Buchanan was acted by Joel Edgerton whose booming personality, haughty, selfish lifestyle, and early-Twentieth-Century-wealthy-white man-ignorance opposed the desperate, hopeful romanticism of DiCaprio's Gatsby. These protagonists, antagonists, and their accessories were supported by a fantastic group of character types which defined and set apart the worst and best aspects of this tragedy's cast.

It was a film worth watching for those who appreciate the entirety and soul of Fitzgerald's novel and message, those who enjoy the period of the 1920s, and for those who respect the ability of the medium of film to combine design, story, acting, and music into a sensory-stunning marvel, especially in the case of this classic silver screen sad story.

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