Wednesday, June 05, 2013

After The Great Gatsby

So, The Great Gatsby. What to say, what to say? (Let me just preface this by saying that I hadn’t read the book, and I hadn’t read a single review or even seen the trailer for this movie. It got to the point where, because I hadn’t got around to these things yet, I decided not to and to go along and be completely surprised, so here is the untainted opinion of Ali.)

I enjoyed this movie. I certainly didn’t not enjoy it.

I don’t have a list of very specific criteria by which I evaluate movies. (Maybe that’s a Myers Briggs extreme “N” thing. I know whether or not I like visual things, based on my overall intuitive sense of it, but drilling down into the details or any kind of sensory specifics of why that is I find more difficult.) But, here is one of my broad points of judgment. Usually I am one of the biggest cry babies in a theatre, who is not difficult to move, and yet, despite the tragedy of this story, I shed not one tear. I have been trying to understand why this is. I don’t know whether it was Baz Luhrmann, or the story itself (I’m suspecting Baz), but, for one example, the scenes of the 1920s parties in Gatsby’s house are so bedazzling, and so supersaturated with extravagance, that I think the only way I can explain it is to say that for me they veered so close to the line of being make-believe that they left me at a distance. I wasn’t drawn IN, I was left sitting in my chair watching from the picture theatre.

And I think that is essentially how I would describe my response to this movie. I watched it, and I enjoyed, but it didn’t involve me in it.

It is a magnificent spectacle, to the point that several times digital enhancements seemed obvious. (And I realised later that much of the strangeness of it was perhaps owing to the fact that there is a 3D option: features such as the swooping aerial photography and the cartoon-esque car-driving scenes.) If you like glitz and glamour, glitz and glamour in manifold excesses, this movie is for you. On that point it probably needs to be seen to be believed.

But if you like pathos, perhaps this movie isn’t for you. For me the only vehicle of any kind of pathos in the film was Nick Carraway, the narrator. If tragedy had come to him a few tears might have fallen.

I’m giving it 7/10. And now I might read a few reviews and think about whether or not I want to read the book.

10 comments:

Jean said...

Read it at school, didn't like the book. Feel kinda guilty admitting that. Tell me what you think if you read it!

Alistair Bain said...

I'll have something to say about this tomorrow night.

pia said...

read it at school, loved the book - sort of the book that stuck with me by far most of all the books i've read in school. maybe because of the pictures it left, of all the magnificiently beautiful surroundings and the tragedy of the story. oh and i had to write a little report on that dumpyard with the huge commercial for glasses (?) above it and how it relates to "waste land" by T.S.Eliott (is that in the movie?). all in all, it left an impression. i'd give an 8/10 read-it advice ;)

Ali said...

Alistair, I will be keen to hear your thoughts on the portrayal of something so close to your heart!

Pia, that is interesting. I hear very mixed reports of the book. Wasteland is a poem by Eliot - how curious - the things they come up with for high school English. That ash dumpyard is quite weird and surreal in the movie. Anyway, it's not such a long book, so perhaps I shall add it to the list.

Meredith said...

I loved reading your review. Good one. I too read the book at high school. I can remember enjoying it but I can't actually remember the plot! But I think what I liked about it was imagining the whole life in the '20s thing. I loved studying that period in history as well. So I am looking forward to seeing it - especially from a visual perspective. And your review has certainly added to my interest. Hoping we will be off to see it next Tuesday!

Ali said...

Hi Meredith, oh, well glad you enjoyed it. I feel like my review was, perhaps like the movie, lacking in substance. I don't know much about the 20s actually, but such extravagance sandwiched between the World Wars has aroused my interest. Hope you do get to see it. It really does need to be seen to be believed!

Pia said...

I am pretty sure that I would have missed the connection to the "Wasteland" poem if i had read the book all by myself... :) And i cannot remember any direct references or conclusions for that matter, but also felt kind of impressed by the "Wasteland".
Think actually i'm a bit like Meredith: cannot remember too much of the plot, but as mentioned, mainly some "visuals" it left. Which is also why I'm thinking that Baz Luhrman might be just the right director to make a move for me out of the book.
And as for the book, it is definitely nothing one should read in a slightly depressive mood, as it is all the Fitzgerald / 20's / and in the end comes a great depression (economically and psychologically I guess...) stuff

Meredith said...

The '20s is a very interesting decade - post WW1, European nations beginning to bristle in the lead up to WWII, excess leading to the Depression, the period of the gangsters, interesting things happening in the US, prohibition and all that fashion and jazz and great stuff happening in the literary field. A great backdrop for the book/film. That would all add to and explain the excesses of lushness of the film I would think. I am looking forward to seeing it.

Meredith said...

Just home from seeing it. Loved it. It was sad and depressing and so very well done in all its opulence. Wish we were not on the opposite sides of the country...would really love to debrief over a cup of tea (not Earl Grey) with you!

Ali said...

Hi Meredith, I had to moderate your comment because this post is over two weeks old, but thank you! Yes, it was sad, and depressing, and it is a shame we can't have that cup of tea! Glad you got to see it and loved it.