Monday, May 6, 2013

Getting Ready For Gatsby

I am going to be writing about this all week, so prepare yourselves!
The movie comes out midnight on Thursday (yes, technically Friday, I know), but due to my stupid schedule and stupid Salt Lake movie theaters restricting the viewings, I won't see it until Saturday (when there will only be 2 showings at the downtown theater, because the one near us isn't even playing it that day! And many theaters are only offering it in 3D which is unbelievably lame.  Is this Utah partial-censorship or what??).

I have been waiting for this moment for far too long.
2 years ago I was doing my usual twiddling around on the intranets looking at Great Gatsby ephemera because I like to re-read the book with some new tidbit of knowledge each time.
And I re-read that book a lot.  Like once every two months (yes-I-am-serious).
So I am always researching it in an effort to make the re-read kind of like a new read.
For example, I learned that the supposed secret society that Nick and Tom met in was the Skull & Bones at Yale, so I re-read it with that in mind.

Anyhow, it was during one of my regular old perusals online that I found a snippet of information that made my heart pound-- rumors of a new Gatsby movie being made.
And whisperings that Baz Luhrmann would be directing.
Which extra excited me, because I like that guy a lot.

His stuff is magnificent, and the was he re-makes stories is always so creative and illuminating!
Look what he did for Romeo and Juliet, which had previously been done in the uptight-ridiculous-accented-period-costume style! He infused it with modern tension, guns, Catholic imagery, all kinds of uniqueness that made Shakespeare's poetry come to life in an entirely new dimension.  I love it.
He re-made Moulin Rouge (did you know there was an original? 1950s, baby). And Australia didn't really float my boat, but the cinematography was gorgeous.
So who better to direct such a visual story about the flamboyant hubris of America in the 1920s?!

We've already had the rigid and "true to the book" film adaptations--the one from the late 1940s (that is impossible to find, I think they broke copyright law or something), and of course the fabulous 70s rendition with 
Robert Redford as Gatsby. I REPEAT:

Sam Waterson wasn't bad as Nick by the way.  And Mia Farrow certainly captured Daisy's flightiness, but she also got on my nerves, plus I just have a hard time watching her after the whole Rosemary's Baby incident and not expect a demon to erupt from her stomach at any moment. She is pretty annoying and you're like I can't picture a man like Gatsby obsessed with HER.  That voice makes me want to vomit. She just seems to fake, especially the first time you see her when she stutters that she is "paralyzed with happiness!"--with that manic look in her eyes and her trilling voice, you wonder if she has taken her anti-psychotics that morning.
Coppola did the script for this one (apparently stolen from Truman Capote) and it's meant to be very intellectual and has the period music and it isn't focused on the party scenes so much that it misses the main plot, which I think is an accomplishment for a 70s film.  And yet... it doesn't really come to life as much as it should.
It lacks that emotion and vividness that the book has become known for.

And then there was the random 2000 TV movie version (is it just me or did that come out of nowhere??) with Paul Rudd as Gatsby.  What the hell??
And that villain from James Bond as Gatsby.
Thank you.
Yes, I know he is not a ginger in the movie, but you can tell that deep down he is a ginger.
It was kind of campy but had these weird creepy undertones and never lifted off the ground.

I enjoyed watching both of these versions, but they did not come relatively near the book and I've been like "okay Hollywood, KEEP TRYING!" for the last decade.

It has been kind of a Gatsby limbo for me.
And all I can do is read contextual novels (This Side of Paradise, Rules of Civility, etc.) and watch Chicago and Some Like It Hot.
I absolutely love that time period and The Great Gatsby has been the keystone of my adoration because it captures the post World War I lusty, invincible mindset of America (particularly New York City).  Partying hard while thousands are jobless, you know.
And Fitzgerald somehow gets me every time to sympathize and like Gatsby, even though he stands for so much wrongness and does things that I despise.  When Wilson shoots him it always chokes me up and then his poor father, his lonely funeral, they get me every time.... Oh Gatsby.

 It was an Age of Excess, where one was allowed (and socially encouraged) to drink too much, buy too much, engage in immoral behavior, and basically live each day without responsibilities and in the "there-is-no-tomorrow" mindset.
Champagne, diamonds, soaring mansions, rouged knees, cigars, and ragtime.

What a time to live in!
And Gatsby, your rags to riches hero, is the epitome of the age. And he pays for his excesses.

I digress, back to my original story.

So I caught wind of the movie, and Baz, and was like "this is going to be good!!" and then, Leonardo DiCaprio.  I could not breathe for a full 30 seconds and I was wondering who he would be cast as--Nick Carraway or Jay Gatsby, and I thought "there is only one person who could do Gatsby justice, and it is Leo. Of course Baz wouldn't cast him as Nick, the bumbling sidekick."

And I was right, thankfully.
I am not so sure about Tobey Maguire as Nick, but that might just be because I have never been a Tobey fan.  He is just a little too stiff with his lines and generally lackluster for me, so he'd better step it up this time.
It is going to take a lot for him to play the role of Nick and hold his own as the narrator without being overwhelmed and completely outshone by Leo as Gatsby (a little overshining is ok).
I think casting Carey Mulligan as Daisy is absolute brilliance. That girl has a lot of fire in her.
 She has the look and the acting chops for a marvelous performance and I think she will capture the inane yet fragile and dreamy heart of Daisy perfectly. I can only hope for sparks between her and Leo.

Joel Edgerton as the hulking bastard of Tom also appeals to me. The girl playing Jordan is pretty much a no-name, but she has the look, so I'm willing to invest, but Isla Fisher as Myrtle feels like a major miscast.  Myrtle is supposed to be chubby but sensual, and not beautiful, but vital, and kind of giving off an electricity. I think Isla may come off too much as just the hot dumb chick in this role. We shall see.
Her costume on the left looks a little too gussied up and floozy-ish to be Myrtle.  Not that she isn't a floozy, but she is more of a sloppy housewife and I never imagined her parading around in an outfit like that.  
Now Karen Black, the Myrtle of the 1974 version, was spot on.  I have always seen Karen Black as being kind of gross (something about her facial expressions and the way she squeezes her mouth around), and this goes perfectly with the character of Myrtle.  She has the allure, though it doesn't much come from her appearance, which is how Myrtle is described in the book.  Just take a look--

Well that is enough to get going on. Let the countdown to Gatsby commence!!!

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