Bling on Steroids – The Great Gatsby Revisited

Leonardo di Caprio and Carey Mullligan in a still from The Great Gatsby

Far be it from me to posture as a movie critic. As far as I know there is one movie critic in South Africa, viz Barry Ronge. But since this little blog is about my current grilling life, it would be remiss of me not to tell about my adventure of going to the movie theatre this week.

The buffet of entertainment in New York is, these days, above my means. Recently a friend went to see the Rolling Stones. The tickets were $300.
The only way you don’t spend money in the US is if you stay in bed. Going to New York or even Philadelphia involves mucho denaro.

I long ago resolved only to go and see people who are likely to shuffle off this mortal coil sooner rather than later. (Note to self: must save up for tickets for Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.)

But last night, by happy chance, a chum and I were able to go to see The Great Gatsby. The cocktail sherpa and the food porter.
He came to collect me in Miss Ross, as we call his car. We were anxious not to be late, but we needn’t have bothered. There were the obligatory seventeen forthcoming attractions. We sat in a near deserted cinema while our fellow movie-goers were tucking into boxes of popcorn the size of telephone booths.”We could have had an appetizer”, groaned Tom aggrievedly. Later “We could have had an entree!”
And still later “We could have had dessert!”

Finally the extravaganza commenced. I winced immediately. Are movies these days made for the hearing impaired? Why, when Daisy ripped off her necklace the sound of the pearls rolling over the parquet were like ballbearings on a bathroom floor.

For what my budgie-seed opinion is worth, Luhrmann’s interpretation of this great story set in the Jazz Age with its Shakespearean themes – impossible love, incorruptible dreams etc etc – was reduced to a brash 100% singing 100% dancing extravaganza in a heaving sea of champagne.
Tennis courts of Tiffany, tons of dazzle, a giddy torrent of feathers and flim-flam, but with all the depth and charisma as the enamel on a tin tray.
I am rather keen on Scott Fitzgerald and didn’t care for the liberties Luhrmann takes with the book.
Even the fact that Nick Carraway is supposed to be a poor cousin, but somehow can afford several servants and expensive psychotherapy annoyed me. But then maybe that’s just me being Miss Crankypants.

Why, we had to wait for half an hour before DiCaprio even made an appearance – and how exaggeratedly theatrical it was. Strings swelling to Rhapsody in Blue…blinking harbour lights in the distance and so forth.
Like all movies that are jammed with special effects – the 3D made me feel slightly bilious. As endless as Gotterdammerung, it was the kind of spectacle that almost made your eyes want to throw up.

Baz Lurhrmann needed someone to tell him ‘Enough! STOP already!’. Being cool is sometimes as effective as being hysterical but it’s less noisy.
Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D…JZ…Mr Beyoncé….(sic).
What happened to being authentic to the time period?

What’s next? Schindler’s List with a rap music soundtrack.
Listen here Adolf…whattcha gonna do….here’s an idea baby…World War 2!

When Mia Farrow played Daisy, in the 1974 version, Robert Redford’s enchantment/fixation with her seemed more plausible. Miss Mulligan I am afraid, has a pretty face but all the acting skills of a wet sock. She’s not capable of igniting a cigarette, let alone a life-long passion.
(Actually it was more a desire for another possession, rather than love, if you ask me, but maybe I’ve just been watching too much Dr Phil.)
She either looked vaguely agonised or vaguely….well vague. Tobey Maguire, as the narrator, had the fresh unspoiled look of a slightly inebriated undergraduate, most of the time. It was his job to carry the movie. Even he looked exhausted by the end of it.

Leonardo diCaprio was predictably delicious in a series of ice-cream coloured suits, but it seemed to me that he was trying desperately hard to play Gatsby like Robert Reford playing Gatsby. He used the term ‘old sport’ at least a hundred times. Each time was more cringe-worthy than the last.
Auld Spaut. Erld Spert. Owl Spowt…etc etc.
As for the casting of Meyer Wolfsheim as a sinister Gupta – sorry I really can’t keep up – what is the politically correct term?- was downright offensive and if anything, another form of racial stereotyping.

Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s thuggish husband, had curious triangular shaped eyes and bulging cheeks -possibly too much Perlane?
He looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.
His mistress Myrtle wasn’t intriguing enough and his passion for her not believable. I recalled Karen Black playing a smouldering Myrtle and how when she said ‘he makes me feel as though tiny fishes are swimming in my veins’ you tingled right along with her.

In the end Gatsby is a novel about the excesses of an era, the last fling of the dragon’s tail.

While I deeply admired the hurricane of Tiffany jewels, the mansions (large enough to house the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir) the Birnam Wood of peonies, and the intricate topiary in those endless emerald gardens, I left the theatre feeling as though I had overdosed on sequins and Moet.
Perhaps I have finally turned the corner.
I could hardly wait to get home and steam mop the kitchen floor – the new normal for me.

4 thoughts on “Bling on Steroids – The Great Gatsby Revisited

  1. Ag nee man Jani, I was hoping it would be another Moulin Rouge. I think I will go and see it anyway, just to compare notes. So nice to see your sharp & sassy writings online.

  2. I’m not sure I’d agree that DiCaprio couldn’t equal Redford – it’s not impossible, just not wholly likely. The problem is, he’s very much in vogue right now so he’s being placed in all sorts of unlikely situations. Poor chap. Pewr spert I suppose.

    I loved Gatsby as a book, I’m not sure I’ll love it as a movie. Damn you Jani, now I have to see it to find out.

    Incidentally, I came to you through this link (my forums) so welcome back! [http://www.dementia.co.za/forums/topic/15679-jani-allan-is-back/#entry225188]

  3. Leonardo di Caprio should remain on sinking ships and not bother trying to touch the green light at the end of the pier… And having a jaded Bollywood actor play the man that fixed the “World Series” is just bringing the IPL betting scandal into this… Darn CGI made those nouveau riche houses more ostentatious …. Jani , you have summed it all up …. Sheer brilliance!!!!

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