Film, Film News

Five Thoughts About The Great Gatsby

May 24, 2012

Typically, I don’t find myself wishing to foray into the worlds of film or television criticism. Though it is a craft that I admire from afar, my inexperience and general lack of knowledge on the subject usually stop me from ever making a comment myself. However, after watching (and subsequently re-watching) the new trailer for Baz Luhrmann‘s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I feel as if I have something to say. Here are my (brief) thoughts:

1.  I was initially left with mixed feelings. I should start by saying that I think that Nick Carraway’s opening narration was really fantastic. Those lines could have easily been read in an overly theatrical, gushy way. Instead, they were pulled off with an almost anxious-feeling coolness. Well done Tobey Maguire. Having mentioned that, I wish I could say the same thing for the rest of the trailer. Luhrmann seems completely focused on lavish and impressive cinematography, and it shows. (Does anyone else not remember there being this many showgirls?) The trailer lacks some of the subtlety and social tension that I loved in the book. For me, it is not quite as pleasing for the mind as it is for the eyes.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan seem surprisingly perfect as Daisy and Gatsby. The short scene in which Daisy meets Gatsby on a rainy day had just enough venerability and awkwardness that it came across as genuine. (Side note: Mulligan’s dancing eyebrow is extremely entertaining. Watch for it about fifty-two seconds in.)

3. So far, the reaction to the trailer seems really split. From the outset, there have been two clearly defined groups: “Baz Luhrmann is a genius and will make a perfectly updated Gatsby” and “Luhrmann’s theatrics won’t compliment the feel and themes of the story”. I’ve been finding myself swaying towards the second group, although it is hard to deny that the trailer was extremely beautiful. (Also interesting: the trailer has brought out the distance between Gatsby lovers and Gatsby haters. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.)

4. After my first viewing, I was disappointed that there hadn’t been any jazz music included in the trailer. After a few more plays, however, I’ve really started to love the music. Special mention goes to Jack White’s cover of U2’s “Love is Blindness“. (Possibly one of the best U2 covers I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard quite a few.)

5. Finally, the one thing about the trailer that makes me incredibly anxious: it seems like the film is being set up as a love story. It makes sense; the story of a mysterious man  who is in love with a married woman has a lot more mainstream potential than a sly commentary on pre-war American society. The producers may also be trying to attract a large portion of possible viewers who may have been put off by their previous experience with Gatsby (most likely a high school English class). For me, The Great Gatsby isn’t a love story. There are definitely elements of love within the novel, however as a whole I feel that it has a lot more to say. There are social and economic messages buried within the book that just can’t be communicated in the context of a romance.

The Great Gatsby will undoubtedly be entertaining. However, my personal opinion depends entirely on the thematic decisions of the creative team.  My fingers are crossed that Luhrmann won’t succumb to the wants of the mainstream.

**The Great Gatsby comes out on December 25. You can watch the first trailer below:**

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  • Reply Richard Sanchez May 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Great thoughts Brennan, I didn’t even know they were adapting this into a film.

    • Reply Brennan McCracken May 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks Richard. I’ve been excited for the film for a few months now, but it was only this week that I found out about Baz Luhrmann’s involvement.

  • Reply Janelle Kihlstrom May 25, 2012 at 12:07 am

    I tend to agree with these observations, too — especially about loving the Jack White cover of what I’d almost forgotten is one of my favorite U2 songs. I’d go to see this just for that, if I hadn’t already been looking forward to it since the first mention there might be a new version…

    Baz Luhrmann is always over the top, but he’s brilliant at creating moods and choosing anachronistic music that amazingly ends up fitting perfectly… and also surprising casting that turns out just right, too. But then I tend to still feel disappointed that the subject matter as a whole is only partially explored… That will probably be the case here, too, but you never know. “Gatsby” is more than just a love story, but you could make a case that at its heart it’s a love story of an ordinary man with the American dream, represented by one particular woman, so if that is represented somehow, I’ll be happy enough…

    • Reply Brennan McCracken May 25, 2012 at 12:27 am

      Thanks for the comment Janelle! Interesting perspective… it is possible that Luhrmann will use Gatsby’s love for Daisy as a vehicle to explore the books themes and symbols.

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