Saturday, May 11, 2013
The Great Gatsby
I don't even know where to begin. I was really looking forward to this movie because I love the novel and I was really hoping for a good adaptation because gosh darn it, this book deserves a good movie. It deserves a movie of the caliber of Lord of the Rings, that's how good it is. Now, for those of you who have been following the critic's reactions, you'll know that the critic's reviews have been mostly negative and the audience's response has been pretty mixed. And once again, it is up to me to give you the real deal. It fucking sucks.
I know there are people who really like this movie, but I'm going to tell you to ignore them. They're idiots. If they have any sort of love for F Scott Fitzgerald's book and actually understood it, then they would hate this movie. Fitzgerald is spinning in his grave. God! I fucking hate this movie! Baz Lurhmann was the one person who should NOT have been trusted with making this movie. You know why? Because I don't even think he knew what book he was making. He was just using a random source material as an excuse to try and jam his pretentious artsy style down our throats. If you want to do that with a book that's fine, but for the love of God, don't make it The Great Gatsby!
I'm not going to get into the story of the movie because if you graduated from high school, then you probably already know it. And because Lurhmann sure didn't care about the story, all he cared about was how it looked, how long he could make the party scenes and putting rap music into it. The party scenes were so long and drawn out that I began to check my watch during them. Everything about them really boggled me, from the way that they were shot, edited and even the choice of music for them. For being as long as they were, they were shot and edited in a really fast manner. I get that it's to show our characters having a wild and crazy time, but why does it have to be so long? You could have gotten the idea across and made the scene so much shorter. And then music wise, it would start with something that sounded like music that would be played during that time, but then all of a sudden, it would just randomly transition into some rap number. When the soundtrack for the movie was released, I told everyone my disdain for it because it was all Jay-Z, Beyonce, Fergie, will.i.am and so on, and I expressed my bewilderment that they would be showing up at all in a movie set in the jazz age. Now, I know that Baz's style is to take an older source material and give it a modern spin to appeal to today's audience (I'll get into that later), but I just don't see the point for a movie on Gatsby. Gatsby was a statement about the jazz age, it sort of created that picture of what society and people were like in that time the same way The Canterbury Tales and Huckleberry Finn painted similar portraits for the times that they were written in. Having said that, this movie should have been a hardcore period piece, something like Boardwalk Empire, that has been a 30 hour period piece set during the exact same time as Gatsby, and they have been doing it just fine. When a novel makes this profound of a statement about its setting, it doesn't need modern elements. And when you look at the opening, it looks like that is what we are going to get. The Warner Bros. logo is in black and white and it's all grainy, it kind of reminded me of something out of the Bioshock games, and since those games, while they were science fiction horror games, they also had an aura that made you feel like you were in the time that they were set in, I thought maybe the same could happen here. I am a fool for hoping for as much.
And when you really think about it, the music was only really used during the party scenes. Someone who saw the movie before me told me that when you were hearing the Jay-Z or whoever the hell's song it was during the party, it was meant to be something that only us, the audience, could hear. But no, there were moments when the camera would go to someone inside, and the music would get really muffled and quieter, the way music sounds when you are inside, and it is being played outside. So no, the characters can clearly hear it. And honestly, when you take all of this into account, I really have to ask WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE STORY OF GATSBY?!!! It has absolutely nothing to do with Jay Gatsby. When you think about it, all of this modern day shit did nothing to move the story along or advance our emotions. It just made us say "Hey! Cool party! I wish I was there!" If anything, it brings the story to a halt because we have to spend 10-15 minutes on something that took up about five pages in the book. Towards the end, everything felt rushed because somebody finally realized that they were taking way too much time with unnecessary shit. There was a great part at the end of the book that involves Gatsby's father and it got cut out of the movie! That was a really important part that gave us some more insight into our hero, and it got left out! I haven't been this mad about a scene getting cut since Dumbledore's funeral! Another part that was left out involved our narrator interacting with the other characters after Gatsby's death. He refuses to shake one character's hand and is rude to the other character. We see his hatred for the characters and why Gatsby of all people is the one who remained in such respect.
There are two ways that the narrative/cgi relationship can work. You can either use cgi to help tell your story, similar to say Lord of the Rings, or you can use your story to give you more excuses to use cgi, as is the case with the Star Wars prequels. The second approach is a risky one, and nowadays, people are beginning to see through it more and more. To be honest, I'm not entirely against heavy use of cgi, just as long as it is done right. I'm not a huge Zack Snyder fan, but in cases like 300 or Watchmen, he really put his computers to good use and gave those movies a look and style that really worked. Gatsby, sadly, also used this second approach, but it ended up being more like the Star Wars prequels. This movie used way too much cgi and while it looks cool, one really has to question what the point was. I'll admit that it looks nice, but again, going back to the Star Wars prequels, we all know that you can polish a turd all you like, it's still a piece of shit. I was once watching an interview with some of the actors in the Star Wars prequels, and they were complaining about how almost every set they were on had some kind of green screen connected to it. The same is the case here. Though, with Star Wars, it's slightly more justifiable because that is a movie about adventures in space with other planets and weird aliens. Did I just say George Lucas is a better filmaker than Baz Luhrmann? Yup. While we're at it, at least George Lucas tried writing his own material. It was awkward and hackneyed but it was his own. Baz Luhrmann took a novel he clearly doesn't understand and used it as a vehicle to ram his overly artsy and pretentious style down our throats. And I know that he doesn't understand it because if he understood it, he would not have volunteered to make the movie because he should know himself well enough to know that he couldn't resist the urge to do his thing, and he would have realized that he should, for the good of the novel, stay the fuck away. His style adds nothing to what should have been the main focus, the story. It just felt like he was going through the motions with the story while his real attention was on how it looked. In the end, the narrator (played by Tobey Maguire who honestly looked like he had no idea what he was doing) had to tell us how we should feel about these characters. We have to feel inspired by Gatsby's spirit. And the reason why I know that is because the narrator told us that, we didn't get to experience it for ourselves. They wasted so much time on useless crap that the stuff that mattered ended up getting rushed into a narration rather than it being properly displayed through dialogue and action.
So how was the acting? Well, I have to say that I certainly had high hopes from the cast because it is certainly a good collection of actors. In the end, I only had 3 people that I was all that impressed with: Leo, Joel Edgerton and the gal who played Jordan. Leo DiCaprio always turns in a good performance, but even then, I have seen far better from him. Whenever I heard his voice, I just kept thinking of J. Edgar Hoover. And he is supposed to be portraying the ultimate facade. Someone who is really charismatic and acts like they are on top of the world but on the inside, has a lot of baggage to deal with, similar to Bruce Wayne. In fact, with the right writing, you could have had Christian Bale play this part really well because he's already played that part perfectly. Joel Edgerton was great as Tom, and it's nice to see him getting more roles, because the guy's a good actor, and he really got to show his range with this character. Jordan's role was really underwritten I thought and the script didn't give the actress playing her much to work with, but she did her best and her effort shows. Carey Mulligan, who I was hoping would steal the show, was just annoying and she is supposed to be the girl every guy wanted to be with, and she never really showed any of that in her performance. And Tobey Maguire, bless his heart, just has this look on his face like he doesn't know what he's doing there. In his opening narration, he sounds really old and I thought it was going to be narrated by an older Nick Carraway who is relating this story to us, the audience. Instead, it's being told by a young Nick Carraway about a month after it all happened to his therapist. This subplot really baffled me because it wasn't in the novel and there was no point to it. You coud have left those scenes out and it would have cost us nothing, except maybe a shorter screentime, but then again, I felt that this movie was about twenty minutes too long anyway so their loss is our gain.
The last thing that I have to touch on is who they were aiming at. I keep hearing that the target audience is those who didn't read the book. Why? You know that this book is a famous and beloved one, and you know that people have long been waiting for a good movie on it, so why are you pandering to those who never bothered? In the end, all you'll end up doing (and did end up doing) was dumming down a great book so that your audience can enjoy it. As for the modern music, the argument is that he is trying to hook younger audiences into coming. How can I put this? I find it disgusting when a director feels the need to pander to who they think their audience will be. Younger audiences should learn to put down the Transformers doll and pay attention to what a good story is. When all is said and done, all you accomplished was sacrificing the dignity of one of my favorite books all so that you could serve your own artistic ego.
Final Grade: F, I don't want to see this movie ever again.