Monday, May 13, 2013
The Great Gatsby
You remember "The Great Gatsby," don't you, old sport? Probably read it in American Lit in high school. Long Island, mysterious multimillionaire, opulent parties, all that jazz. Didn't care much for it, old sport? Yeah, me neither. And I know how you feel about Baz Luhrmann. Better not to say anything at all. Still, old sport, I'd have thought he'd give us something lovely to look at, at least, or a musical number to remember afterward - even one as hideous as Jim Broadbent singing "Go, go, go!" in "Moulin Rouge." But you see, old sport, none of the people at the parties seem to be having any actual fun. When Baz gets to them, they flail their arms about manically for the camera, but you don't feel you'd want to attend the parties, old sport, which you really have to for the whole operation to work.
The first problem, old sport, is that Baz has gone and cast Leo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire as Gatsby and Nick Carraway. Perfectly good actors (well, Leo, anyway), but ten years too old for the parts. Carey Mulligan's much better cast as the wistfully sad Daisy Buchanan, but Joel Edgerton - again, closer to my age - comes off more like Daisy's father than her hubby, Tom. And Isla Fisher - from "Bachelorette," old sport - makes Tom's paramour Myrtle trashy, a clown - like Mrs. Thenardier in "Les Miz." There are some very pretty scenes, especially one in which Gatsby rains an avalanche of solid-colored shirts down on Daisy from his second-story closet, which he traverses on a wheeled stepladder like an old-time library. Why, old sport, anyone would want that closet for their very own. But why Luhrmann set the picture to a totally incongruous hip-hop soundtrack is one for the historians, I'm afraid. If you're trying to recreate the opulence of Fitzgerald's vision of 1920s West Egg, there mustn't be even a hint of grit.
The movie runs to almost two and a half hours, and I must tell you, old sport, my eyelids began to droop round about the halfway mark. As usual, Baz hasn't given us anyone to like, anyone especially to hate, anyone to invest ourselves in. And the actors don't help. God only knows what kind of an accent Leo's attempting here, old sport, while Tobey looks on bemusedly - two sizes too small for his clothes - like a kid trying not to be noticed walking around a casino. Gatsby needs to be a character of great mystery, old sport. We need to wonder - as we did about Leo's Teddy Daniels in "Shutter Island" - how much, if anything is real. Does he even exist? Here, it's all out there. He is what he is, a mega-rich party thrower still in love with his married ex. (He holds several secretive conversations with the vaguely queasy Jewish character Meyer Wolfshiem, but they go nowhere.) It's just not terribly interesting, old sport. Oh, by the way, he also has one tiny little habit, an affectation of sorts. Kind of endearing the first time, old sport, but more annoying as it goes on. But why should I spoil the surprise? You'll hear for yourself.