The Great Gatsby–brings Fitzgerald’s words to life!

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Baz Luhrmann has done what many tried and failed to do–bring F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic to life.  And although it is not perfect and it may run a bit long, I still liked more in The Great Gatsby, than I disliked.  If you are a fan of the novel, as my daughter and I are, I can not imagine how you can be wholly disappointed.  Baz does more right than wrong with this almost literal adaptation.  His vision is a gorgeous and spectacular, in true Baz fashion.

And this IS a Baz Luhrmann film–through and through.  If you do not know what that means check out his other projects–my favorites?  Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Australia.  All of them…vibrant–raw–striking–bold…I can go on and on.  What I love so much about Baz is his unique style and voice.  There is also always a very distinct line between the audience and the “play”–he purposely reminds us that what we are watching is a “NOT real”.   With the use of strong imagery (the sets here are amazing) and creative music he is able tell his stories like almost no one else.  And if you come into Gatsby as a fan, you will not be disappointed.

Side note:  I am not a 3-D lover or hater, but I usually go good old-fashioned 2-D and this time my daughter convinced to try it with the glasses.  “Baz?! In 3-D?? C’mon!”  😀  Boy, was she right!  This was a great experience.  The confetti.  The flowing curtains.  The flowers.  Everything.  Beautiful.  It was not gimmicky–just a submersion into the environment–very cool.

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Luhrmann, a big fan of Fitzgerald, co-wrote the screenplay with Craig Pearce and it is actually very faithful to the novel and manages to finally incorporate Carraway’s narration, successfully.  I loved that constant use of words on the screen–an ever constant reminder of the novel.  There were scenes exactly like the novel described them and some sections were verbatim from the book.  I like how they chose to focus on the “love story” and then use them as representatives of their social status and in that way, each could be compared to the different aspects of era that Fitzgerald was criticizing.  Very clever and well done.  But, this is where the problems also lie.  At 2.5 hours it feels bloated and the pace starts to drag by the third act.  I went from being totally lost in the sights and sounds to looking at my watch and thinking how much I had to go to the bathroom.  Yeah…they lost me.  I came back, but still–a good 15-20 minutes could have been shaved off easily.

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Now, on to the impressive cast.   Leonardo DiCaprio is incredible (as usual) as Jay Gatsby.  He is able to be elegant, worldly and confident and then still be awkward, vulnerable and unsure.  Beautiful performance and exactly how I pictured Gatsby in my mind.  Carey Mulligan is Daisy.   She exudes innocence and fragility and yet, there is that core of entitlement and shallowness–Mulligan gives a nuanced turn here.   My only slight disappointment is Tobey Maguire, who works as Nick Carraway–yet, I am not sure he has enough depth to play the part as well as it could have been done.  Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  Just sayin’…

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I can not end this review without mentioning the music.  WOW!  I love it.  Listening to it now.  😀  Lana Del Rey‘s Young and Beautiful (co-written by Baz) is hauntingly beautiful.  And again, Baz creates a modern soundtrack for a period piece–it is infused with a cool, techno 1920s feel and I love that it also helps propel the story forward.  Very creative.

So, as you can tell–I liked The Great Gatsby and will say it was the most faithful adaptation of the novel yet.  It could have been a little tighter with time and not all the roles were perfectly cast–but I was impressed with Baz’s vision and loved Leo and Carey’s performances.  I think F.Scott would have enjoyed it and appreciated that the essence of his novel was captured and that it was so beautifully portrayed.

“Young and Beautiful” – A Tribute to “The Great Gatsby” – YouTube

 

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Shame is an intense character study–Michael Fassbender is amazing!

 

Shame is a realistic, unflinching depiction of a sex addict’s spiral out of control.  It is intense and almost hard to watch.  I would worry if someone found the sex scenes erotic or exciting because it is actually painful and disturbing to see this man unable to conquer his demons. 

Writer/Director Steve McQueen does a wonderful job of telling his story truthfully.  He has taken out all the romance associated with casual sex.  It is raw.  It is ugly.  It is everywhere.  It makes you think about society’s hypocrisy.  What is acceptable? Adultery? One night stands?  And what is deviant behavior? Porn? Masturbation?  There is a line and at times it is hard to differentiate.  There are some very interesting juxtapositions that are explored quite subtly.

I also loved the way McQueen incorporated the city of New York–it is an important character in this film.  The city helps facilitate the sexual addiction, with its constant accessibility and ends up contributing to the protagonist’s ever-growing shame. 

But this film belongs to Michael Fassbender (who continues to earn my fascination with him).  He is truly amazing.  It is a daring performance not to be missed.  What he is able to do with mere glances and physical expression is stunning.  WOW!  Add Carey Mulligan (who is quickly becoming one the finest actresses of her generation) and you have powerful duo.  She is almost unrecognizable–and not because of anything externally–but because she transforms into this character so thoroughly you can not see any other traces of what we have seen from her.  Bravo!

I do not want to delve into the narrative–I like that the trailer gives you a glimpse into the world and you get a feeling for the style of the film without revealing too much.  It did earn a NC-17 rating and is showing on limited screens–but if you want to go on emotional journey that will make you talk about sex and our notions about it–then find it and check it out!