Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Great Gatsby (Rhoades)

“The Great Gatsby”
As Fitzgerald Imagined It

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Years ago when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, some people still remembered F. Scott Fitzgerald who came there to visit his wife Zelda. She was institutionalized at the nearby Highlands Hospital, where she later died in a fire.
“He was a friendly man,” one old-timer told me. “Didn’t put on airs. Few people knew who he was. His high-living days were behind him.”
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald had been the chronicler of the Jazz Age –and he’d dubbed his Southern belle wife as “the First American Flapper.” Charter members of the so-called Lost Generation, he and Zelda had hung out in Paris with Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, and Josephine Baker (delightfully parodied in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”).
His writing consisted of five novels (one published posthumously), and volumes of short stories that he penned for such publications as Esquire, Collier’s Weekly, and (my old alma mater) The Saturday Evening Post.
His most famous work is “The Great Gatsby,” which has been called “a flawless novel” and “the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James.” Modern Library listed it as the second best novel of the 20th Century. It is required reading in many high schools and colleges so you have no doubt read it at some time in your life.
As you’ll recall, “The Great Gatsby” recounts the story about an enigmatic millionaire named Jay Gatsby who throws lavish parties at his Long Island mansion in hopes that the girl he once loved will find her way there. We see it all through the eyes of Nick Carraway, who has rented the house next door and gets drawn into his old war buddy’s world of high society, gangsters, and thwarted love. Set in the ’20s, it provides a dazzling look at that age of prosperity and abandon, taking the reader from Long Island’s Gold Coast (with its clash of old money and new money) to Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel and the Valley of Ashes in between.
The book has been described as a “cautionary tale of the decadent downside of the American dream” but it more accurately deals with the “human aspiration to start over again.” While set against a backdrop that emphasizes the excesses of the rich, it tells the tragic tale of a man who aspired to wealth in order to impress the woman he loved, a man trying to relive the past.
When Nick tells him you can’t repeat the past, Gatsby cries, “Why of course you can.”
“The Great Gatsby” has been filmed five times, including the 3-D version by Baz Luhrmann that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Luhrmann is the Australian director known for his Red Curtain Trilogy “Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo + Juliet,” and “Moulin Rouge.” Here, he teams again with Leonardo DiCaprio, his star of the modern-day MTV-style retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic romance, to give us another tragic romance.
In addition to DiCaprio (“Titanic,” “Django Unchained”) starring as Jay Gatsby, we have British actress Carey Mulligan (“An Education,” “Shame”) as the elusive Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire (“Spider-Man,” “Cider House Rules”) as the narrator, Nick Carraway.
Baz Luhrmann’s movie is as opulent as the society it presents, with magnificent sets, perfectly choreographed parties, and winsome stars. The sparkling chandeliers and spouting fountains and dancing jazz babies bespeak of an era known as the Roaring Twenties all filmed in 3-D.
But Luhrmann insists, “The ‘special effect’ in this movie is seeing fine actors in the prime of their acting careers tearing each other apart.”
Nevertheless, the director asserts that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have approved his use of 3-D to tell the story. “He was a modernist,” Baz Luhrmann says. “He was very influenced by the cinema.”

1 comment:

Paula Angelique Hafner said...

A fun film. Hard to believe the Director-Actor team would make another smash in the same year with Wolf. Quite good stuff from these two this year.