Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Matinee: The Great Gatsby (2013) and reflections on the audio re-read

 One of my goals for Mother's Day was to get myself to the theater to see "The Great Gatsby".  I accomplished that goal, albeit by myself.  I was fine with that, as I am the only one in my house who has read the book.  All I needed to do was drink it in, like one of my husband's delightful cocktails.  

I guess there is a reason why I'm not a movie critic.  Because I loved this movie, and I just shake my head when I read all the scathing reviews.  I don't get it.  

Although this book by F. Scott Fitzgerald is compulsory reading for every high school English class, I will refresh your memory.  Jazz Age New York.  Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire and our narrator for the story), a fresh-faced college grad, has moved into town to get into the bond market.  He rents a cottage on Long Island, next door to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a flashy new-money guy who is known for his extravagant parties and decadent lifestyle.  Nick is also the cousin of Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) who is married to old-money Long Islander Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).  Tom is a bit of a pompous ass, cheats on Daisy on a regular basis and flaunts this fact with flair.  

 The wheels are set in motion when Gatsby convinces Nick to invite his cousin over for tea, as a ruse so Gatsby can rekindle a relationship with Daisy that stalled 5 years ago.  We learn that everything Gatsby has done in his life has been to win Daisy back.  But as these grandiose plans often go, things come crashing to the ground in a tragic denouement.

I've got no issues with the casting.  Mulligan positively glows, with her cute little pixie haircut and sparkling eyes.  DiCaprio is at his most charming and handsome, sporting a little tan and smooth moves, but easily transitions to the love-obsessed and the bug-eyed.  I loved Edgerton as Tom Buchanan (see picture above)...that man has a screen presence and made it very easy to dislike him, but hard to turn your eyes away.  I also enjoyed the minor performances of Jason Clarke (playing George Wilson) and Elizabeth Debicki (playing Jordan Baker).  My only head-scratch was Tobey Maguire.  He did a perfectly fine job, but just wasn't who I'd pictured as Nick.

The critics have bitched about the insane, manic, over-the-top energy of the movie...the modern rap soundtrack anachronistically nestled amongst a swirling blur of flappers, confetti and heavy eye makeup.  But seriously?  Isn't that what we paid for?  Based on what I love about Baz Luhrmann and his lack of restraint onscreen, I would have been disappointed if he hadn't given me an eye feast.  He also did honor to the novel, with a few minor exceptions.

I did NOT see the 3D version.  It seemed like an unnecessary addition to an already busy agenda.  I don't think this movie needed anything swinging out at me.  

So how did my re-read go?  I originally consumed this classic in high school, like everyone else on earth. (Hey, my high school was not exactly cutting edge, so if I was required to read it, I'm pretty sure everyone was.)  I don't think I appreciated the finer points of the plot back then.  What did I know of cheating husbands, cheating wives, materialism and the lifestyle of the decadent and depraved?  I was a farm girl!  What I did appreciate, as I recall, besides a lot of chatter about the green light, was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach (similar to the one I felt when reading Of Mice and Men), hating Daisy and feeling pity for Gatsby.  

And honestly, my emotions were exactly the same today.  Having Leo's sweet face burned on my brain as Jay Gatsby didn't help matters one bit.  I enjoyed the re-read, and felt it was extremely helpful in seeing the movie, and knowing what was coming.

As I complained yesterday in my Sunday Salon, the audio itself was HORRID. For example, I was trucking along, enjoying the story, when all of the sudden, it goes back about 20 minutes and repeats exactly what I'd already heard.  It did that THREE TIMES.  I'm not sure if that was the fault of my library or the actual recording, as it was a digital download.  Can you imagine?  Curse words were erupting from me.  I was a Vesuvius of curse.  Then the narrator, Alexander Scourby, kept making wet mouth noises and was smoking throughout the recording.  It wouldn't have surprised me if I'd heard the clink of ice in his glass of bourbon, for God's sake.  Just because it was The Great Gatsby didn't give him permission to distract the listener with such rubbish.  So if you are going to listen to this short audio (approximately 5 hours, but how the hell would I actually know?) I would highly recommend you get your hands on the Jake Gyllenhaal version.  It has to be a better version.

Story:  5 out of 5 stars
Audio:  1 out of 5 stars
Movie:  4.5 out of 5 stars


Beth F said...

I hope we get to the theater for Gatsby, but I'm just fine waiting for the DVD/BluRay.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

My oldest daughter came in last night crowing about the movie...and especially the soundrack. I think she loved the contrast but also felt the hipper sounds added to the chaos of the story as well as Gatsby's lifestyle. Like you, the last time I read this was high school, so I'll be setting aside some time in the next couple of weeks to re-read this one before I head to the movies :)

Anonymous said...

DiCaprio is amazing, as usual, but everything else seems to be falling apart around him here. Good review Sandy.

Brooke said...

It took me awhile, but I've decided that I liked the film overall. A couple of minor scenes bothered me and I didn't love the green screen. However, Mulligan's Daisy was fabulous. She really sold the film to me even more than Leo's Gatsby (which was still a fabulous performance).

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'm do not understand the horrible reviews either! I loved the movie and knowing Luhrmann's style it's exactly what I expected. The only casting that bothered me was Maguire, but it wasn't enough to bother me too much. I'm so glad I re-read it before seeing the movie. It made me appreciate all the lines in the film even more. Boo hiss that the audio was so bad for you!

caite said...

Yes the reviews have been bad, but you give me hope...what to do?

JoAnn said...

I agree with you on the 3D - don't think that's for me. I do hope to see the movie either this week or next, and your opinion gives me hope... I'm not exactly a critic either.

Julie P. said...

I almost feel like my book club should read it and see the movie!

Heidenkind said...

I agree with you about Toby McGuire. I pictured Nick as more understated and snooty, and in the movie McGuire kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. The framing also really annoyed me, but beyond that I thought it was best adaptation of the novel I'd seen yet. I LOVED Jordan.

Iliana said...

Haven't seen the movie although I would like to but I actually have read some good reviews - save for the critique of the music. I can imagine that may bother me too but from the previews I've seen the visuals are great. Thanks for the review!

Literary Feline said...

It's been ages since I read the book (high school) and while I am considering a re-read, I'm not sure . . . I would like to see this movie in the theater though. Not sure I'll get the chance.

Jenners said...

Glad to hear your thoughts on this and to hear that you LIKED it. I've been hearing such bad things about it, but it IS Baz Luhrmann so over-the-top and lots o modern music is to be expected. And I just don't get why Tobey Maguire continues to get acting jobs. He's so awful in everything. Urgh.

And wow … sounds like the worst narrator ever!